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Saffron 59 Catering is New York City's premier caterer and event planner specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. For over 11 years, Saffron 59 has successfully orchestrated memorable affairs with attention to every detail.

Blog

Travel: My Journey to República de Cuba

Irene Wong

From our window, a glimpse of the Valley de Viñales

From our window, a glimpse of the Valley de Viñales

To those who have been following my blog since 2008, every year towards the end of our hectic season here at Saffron59, I usually choose to take a trip to a developing country just to remind ourselves during the bustling holiday season how fortunate we are living in the United States of America. 

This year we choose to go to República de Cuba for two weeks,  a country that our nation has embargoed and restricted from traveling since 1962. I also have the fascination of the magnificent preserved architecture, the system of organoponicos, organic urban farms that provide nutritious vegetable to the communities. It is a sustainable development using environmentally sound techniques to become self-sufficient in food after the Soviet Union collapse in 1991 without subsidized from the Soviet. The island is beautiful and with a fertile land that it is known to grow the best tobacco leaves in the world.

Nine minutes walk to center of the town in Vinerales

Nine minutes walk to center of the town in Vinerales

We met so many people and had many interesting conversations from tobacco farmers to doctors during the last two weeks that we spent in different parts of Cuba. Stayed in four of Casa Particulars and one hotel resort runned by the government in Trinidad. Several years ago, the government has eased up and many casa particulars and paladars (private restaurants) have opened up. Most of our hosts do go out of their way to suit our comfort level that we are used to in a developed country. Plenty of hot running water, electricity and the country is clean with great easy driving highways.  

We traveled with local buses, hired private cars and many taxi in the provinces.  Cars from Soviet era Lada to vintage convertibles Chevy from the 50's. Managed to get out and push a few times to get the cars started; fellows drivers always stop to check if we need help. There are a few good condition Cadillacs I heard.   

Everyone looked well fed, healthy as the government provides free healthcare and education -the country is known for their strength in medical schools and research. Overall we received very many positive attitudes and excitement for the normalization between the US and Cuba about to approach in the next several months to come.

Organoponicos were created in vacant lots, old parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Organoponicos were created in vacant lots, old parking lots and abandoned buildings.

Hello Irene!!!

I'm Giovanni, the guy you met in Trinidad, Cuba, at the restaurant "La Ceiba", under the branches of 400 yr old tree!!! Remember me? I hope you had a good flight to return to New York. It was so great honor to met you!

I want to tell you why we live over here in Trinidad, I mean, my kids, my wife and I. Me and my wife were born in Camaguey, a province at the middle east of Cuba, by the way, the largest one. Our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, were born in Trinidad. Both families were farmers, however, because they dont supported this regimen when some people risen against it in 60', after Castro took the power, they took away all their properties and put on jail; in a prison at Pinar del Rio, the western province in Cuba, to my grandfathers, and the rest of the family were put on a house in prison in Havana. They spent there 3 years, no trials, they were not criminals! 

So, then, they were moved to Tabor, a concentration camp in Camaguey province (by the way, were dozens of its), and there me and my wife and ours brothers and sisters were born. However, in the 2000 we got married and decided to move to Trinidad because we dont want that ours kids grew up in the same environment than us. So, over here were born ours sons, John and Jonathan. This is a part of my life history, a sad one, by the way. 

However, we are not focus on the past time, but in the future, so, we hope to get better some day! Well amigos, I'll be waiting so exciting your email back!!!

Best regards, 

Giovanni.

Classic cars parked by La Floridita hotel

Classic cars parked by La Floridita hotel