Winter Blogfest: Hector Duarte, Jr.

This post is part of Long and Short Reviews’ Winter Blogfest.

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Noche Buena by Hector Duarte, Jr.

“¡Ño, que hambre!” Is something heard a lot during Noche Buena. In a Caribbean/Latin American household, the night before Christmas holds more weight than the day itself.

Noche Buena starts early. By one, two in the afternoon, family’s already gathered at the host-house. Why? Because the alpha males (many you won’t see til next year) who know best have gathered to figure out the best way to asar el lechon. No caja china here. Don’t insult the masculinity of the yard by bringing it up. Este puerco gets wrapped in banana leaves and splayed over a bed of hot coals burning a hole in the dirt.

But, be patient. This will take hours. Of listening to stories (many on repeat) of the old island; smelling the yard fill with scents of crisping skin and sizzling mojo (sneak a bite every once in a while, but don’t get caught). More listening; if it’s a Republican president in charge, most everyone’s extolling his virtues. A democrat, they’ll say the country’s going the way of Fidel and, “Cuando, Dios mio,” will a Republican take the reins again? This banter will eventually give way to the muttering of, “¡Ño, que hambre!”

Shove as many Islas Canarias croquetas down your throat; man, are they tasty. None of them quell the itch produced by el humo hotboxing la casa entera. Black beans, yuca con ajo, flan, y arroz con leche. And, of course, el cabrón lechón. Burning a hole in your stomach.  

If you’re lucky, it’s unwrapped from its steaming cocoon by nine, by which time you’re likely out of your mind from staring at domino tiles plunked onto a custom-made wooden gaming table emblazoned with some type of Cuban nostalgia.

¡Ño, que hambre!

Pero, esperate. Got to let los mayores in front of you. What kind of joven would you be if you ate before Abuela Miña? This family’s so big and generational, it adds another fifteen minutes between you and jamando. Ni te atrevas try and sneak a peek off Mami or Papi’s plate!

Finally, you eat, filling your empty stomach with the staples that have teased harder than the episode endings of one of Mami’s telenovelas.

Ño, do they fulfill.

You eat so hard and fast, by the end you’re comatose and ready for bed.

Perfect time to sneak in a nap and wake up in time to arrive home and unwrap gifts.

The older you get, the less it matters what’s under the tree. Until the day it stops mattering all together because you know all too well all those smells, sounds, tastes can’t be wrapped. There isn’t enough gift paper in all the world to cover it. Best you can do, is try to make that noche buena for someone else. If they’re lucky, they’ll get the slightest sliver of such a memory.

Just a sliver, though. Not the whole pie. Some things you got to hoard for yourself.


After her friend Sandy Mangual tragically falls to his death, Bailey Cohen discovers images of his grisly corpse have been uploaded and shared through social media, by someone very close to her.

Bailey enlists the help of quiet, unnoticed, underappreciated Bernardo Castillo, who works the luxury Miami Beach high rise in which she stays.

Bernardo and Bailey will have to dredge up the shady past they’ve long worked to tamp down in order to set off on the path toward vengeance. A journey that will reshape and morph each person engulfed along its way.

Icarus Over Collins is a short, punchy revenge story as cracked and slivered as hot Miami pavement.


Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer/educator out of Miami, Fl, where he lives with his wife, son, and cat. His fiction has been published widely online and in print. His first short story collection, Desperate Times Call, published in September of 2018 by Shotgun Honey Books. His debut novella, Icarus Over Collins, was published by Cinnabar Moth in March 2023.


Buy the book at Cinnabar Moth.


  1. Ooh, this sounds fun!

  2. This post really pushed the limits of my minimal Spanish, hah! But what a wonderful way to spend the holiday.

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