July 29, 2017
I know it’s been a while but I’m home for summer break and I decided to take myself to CUBA!!!! Who doesn’t want to visit Cuba? Beautiful people, food, and great music! However, this visit wasn’t to soak up the sun and fun at the beach, it was more so to discover part of my family heritage.
My maternal grandfather (Winston) was born in Banes, Cuba in 1922. During his time in Cuba, he would live in Santiago de Cuba, Buena Ventura, Oriente, Camagüey, and a few other places.
During my childhood, our Jamaican culture overshadowed his Cuban culture and my interest in it wouldn’t happen until my adulthood.
My cousin Alycea and I boarded our flight from NYC and set off for our journey of self-discovery. We wanted to know everything we could about Cuba and her people. Not to mention satisfying our obsession with the telenovela Celia.
Alycea and I watched all 80 something episodes to fuel our passions for going to Cuba and it was awesome! It was also good to help us get used to hearing fluent Spanish consistently. My Spanish vocabulary is pretty vast and I can hold a basic conversation, but thank God for Alycea who is almost fluent.
My very good friend Mischell and her lovely sister Lorna came with us and we were so glad they did. These ladies are from Costa Rica so we had someone who spoke Spanish fluently. We ate a wonderful dinner and made our way over to the Malecón with our driver Ozzy to see the sunset.
Afro Cuban Tour
Alycea and I walked down the block from our Airbnb to Callejón de Hamel where we learned about Santeria. After living in Nigeria for a year I saw so many Yoruba related things within this religion. It was amazing to see what they have preserved from Africa and how proud they are to be associated with it.
Old Havana & Ms. Esperanza
We made our way to Old Havana to find the one and only señora Esperanza. This woman has got to be the most photographed person in all of Cuba. If taking a photo with her be sure to tip her well…it is our duty to take care of our elders.
We woke up early and took a long car ride to Viñales to see the countryside. It was breathtaking! We got a chance to visit the prehistoric mural, a tobacco farm, and scored some rum in the process.
Dinner at La Guarida
Now I must say that making the reservations for this restaurant was quite tricky. I started off with 4 people and it jumped up to about 11. La Guarida is one of the most famous and posh eateries in Havana. People like Barack and Michelle Obama, Jay-Z and Beyonce, Madonna and many more. My cousin Alycea and friends Mischell and Lorna and I arrived promptly at 7pm. We walked up the beautiful marble steps until we arrived at the rooftop balcony. The hostess seated us at a beautiful white table and served us water. The rest of our party would arrive extremely late which pissed off the restaurant staff and caused them to behave terribly to us. My recommendation would be if traveling with a group of friends that are staying at different locations, make your own reservations and let them make their own…so you can avoid a situation like this. The staff was so rude and honestly, I would never go back there again. The food was okay…some things were better than others but this was my worst experience during the trip.
Almacenes San Jose Art Village
One of the best things about my time in Cuba was the trip to the San Jose Art Village. There were so many beautiful paintings and crafts that would brighten up any home. The great thing about this experience is that you’re able to negotiate prices with artists providing it’s fair to both parties.
Havana Car Tour
Riding around Havana in a classic car was pretty cool but please be sure to bring a hat with you. It was sunny as hell and the top of my head was roasting!!!!!!!! We went through Old Havana and eventually made our way to a forest where we found offerings to Oshun and Yemaya.
Salsa, Che, and the Beach
I met so many cool people who were taking the time to explore the beauty of Cuba and its people. One of the most interesting people I met was a young lady from California when I was at the beach (it’s the pic with me at the beach in the green…she’s behind me with the big smile). She came to Cuba six years ago to enter the free medical program that Castro offered to African Americans. Her family came down for her graduation and she was so excited to see them and to be leaving Cuba. I learned that she lived traditional life like most Cubans and for her, it was pretty rough, but she was glad that she did it and learned a second language.
Birthday Celebrations & International Schools
By the time my birthday rolled around all my friends went back to America. I was in my Airbnb alone. My wonderful AirBnB host came by with this gorgeous birthday cake and wished me a happy 41st birthday. That afternoon I went by the International School of Havana to spend some time there.
I learned a lot about Cuban culture and my heritage and I”m so grateful for it. I plan to go back next year to learn more about the people of Banes, Cuba in particular. I would recommend all black people to visit Cuba. It’s a proud nation that is equally proud of their African roots….it will feel like home.