I guess it all started when I decided to go to Cuba for New Year 2011. I had just finished studying in London and decided to treat myself/max my credit card on a trip to Cuba.
My fascination with the country began while travelling through Mexico in 2008 and meeting many people that were either travelling to or from Cuba. They told stories of revolution, Che Ghevara, the Castros, the embargo, desperate Cubans escaping to America, rations, old American cars and of course the food. They were starving by the time they left Cuba, as there was nothing attractive to eat. The food was either really bad or the Paladar (Restaurant in someone’s living room with a couple of tables) or hotel had run out of food.
Fortunately things have changed over time…. a little. “Go before it changes” they said. I couldn’t wait to visit this mysterious world that seemed to be completely cut off from the rest of civilisation.
That trip resulted in 2 things, a love of Cuba and love of a Cuban. Little did I know that 1 year later I would be living in Amsterdam with the Cuban and that 4 years later I would be spending a year in Cuba helping his mother set up her restaurant in the beautiful UNESCO town of Trinidad to the south of the country.
Preparations started about 12 months ago and the restaurant opened 3 weeks ago on June 22nd. It has been interesting to say the least. There is nothing normal about how Cuba operates. There is a shortage of everything here – the result of America’s embargo that has lasted over 50 years. There is no cash and carry to buy supplies, no alcohol or wine wholesaler, no deliveries. Everything and I mean everything involves getting in the car (which is extortionately expensive) first thing in the morning and going from store to store checking for supplies – everyone is playing the same game. The government run hotels and restaurants get their supplies first and then the rest is left to the remaining scavengers.
As soon as the deliveries arrive in the supermarkets, the race begins. Cars, vans, pre-war motorcycles, horses and carts are all full of supplies. Later the shops are like some sort of post apocalyptic shell with nothing on the shelves except cans of fruit cocktail – why sell fruit cocktail in a can in Cuba? There is a shortage of everything. I don’t know one thing that is in abundance except for maybe sunshine, music, humour and beautiful people.
Last night there was a power cut in the restaurant. I can’t believe this happens but it does and is just a fact of life here. We are now on Cuba time. We light candles, drink a mojito and wait.
Will keep you posted xx