My Letter from Cuba

I am pushing a pastel, blue-tinted 1956 Chevy Plymouth through the streets of Havana. To my right I am flanked by one of my best friends, Dakota, to my left is a benevolent Cuban who was summoned off the sidewalk to help us in our efforts as we maneuver the elder vessel through Havana’s historic city center.

The engine rattles as our driver attempts to gun the 60 year-old automobile into gear. A plume of arid dust kicks up around us. The young Cubano to my left looks back with wide eyes and a toothy smile.

“Bienvenido a Cuba”

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Two weeks before we jet-setted to the island, Dakota and I were in the throes of discussion about where to meet up. The last time we were together in a foreign country was back in May of last year, where we fjord-ed our way through Stavanger, Norway.

I detailed our experience here, one of my very first blog posts. In it I wrote “where we go next is anyone’s guess, what I do know is that going anywhere with him is guaranteed to be an epic adventure.”

This was a lot to live up to. After a few days of talking we almost pulled the trigger on Peru, before finally arriving at Cuba. Our reasoning was simple: The doors have been opened and we don’t know what our current president will do with regards to Cuban relations. Conversely, we can’t be sure when relations will thaw to the point that the island is saturated with western tourism.

So that is how we ended up in Havana that morning, throwing our weight behind a 1956 Chevy Plymouth.

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The car ultimately wouldn’t start, so our driver sent for someone to tow it.

“Havana is a mistress of pleasure, the lush and opulent goddess of delights”

– Cabaret Quarterly, 1956

After touring through some of Havana’s fabled, luxurious spots of the 1920’s-1950’s, this quote starts to make a lot of sense.

Upon perusing the Nacional, Dakota and I walked a few blocks to a restaurant, Los Amigos, which has been endorsed by eclectic bad boy chef and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain.

Los Amigos is one of many “paladares” located throughout Cuba. These are essentially restaurants run out of Cuban homes, giving tourists an alternative to state-run eateries and providing for a more intimate interaction with the Cuban cuisine.

The food and venue were wonderful. Bourdain did not disappoint.

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Here we indulged in Ropa Vieja, the delicious national dish of Cuba consisting of shredded beef, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and bell peppers. Yum.

Ah, look where we are. We’ve taken a giant leap forward in the timeline. What did I leave out? How do we bridge the gap from Hemingway’s daiquiris to Bourdain’s Ropa Vieja? What happened between the 1946 Mafia summit at The Nacional and Barack Obama’s historic pilgrimage to the island 70 years later in 2016?

 

Check back soon!

3 thoughts on “My Letter from Cuba

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