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My Cuba Diaries: Meeting Candita Batista

How does one go about planning a trip to Cuba based on meeting a centenarian? Let me tell you – no es fácil, as Cubans like to say. Chances are slim, and as it turned out in my case, nil. Two years after my first trip to Cuba, I was eager to make my way back to the Caribbean island, to witness the incredible winds of change as of late and to rub against the vibe of its people. But my end goal was to ultimately say hello to an old friend whom I’d met in Camagüey.



Baracoa, to the beat

With rhythmic, steady steps, uninterrupted and in continuous circle, the dance initiating the long-lived traditional Fiesta del Kiribá y Nengón, alive since more than a century,  reveals the primary cells of the Cuban son



My Cuba Diaries: The Faces of Santiago de Cuba

As Havana boasts 1950s glamour and Camagüey exuberant art, Santiago de Cuba flaunts with gusto the island nation’s fiery history. From the Casa de Diego Velasquez, the oldest home in Latin America, to UNESCO’s best-preserved site of Spanish-American military architecture, the Morro Castle, Santiago de Cuba is packed with history and elegies to a valiant past. It’s here that a young Fidel Castro made history invading the Moncada Barracks, him and his army of rebels, pressing start on the Cuban Revolution.

But history-aside, there are many faces to Santiago de Cuba.



My Cuba Diaries: Cuban crafts

I vividly remember running back to an artist’s studio, in the stifling mid-afternoon heat, to buy a second naïve art painting by Cuban artist Ileana Sánchez before closing time. Frolicking in Camagüey, the UNESCO World Heritage Site traditionally associated with the arts, this was Cuban art ecstasy at its best. Equally so, I diligently added to my souvenir collection snippets of Cuban crafts: seashell earrings, colorful dolls, and several leather wallets; from a treasure trove in a beach-friendly, secluded Caibarién, a recycled paper notebook.



My Cuba Diaries: For the Love of Rum

Cuba Libre, the Hemingway Special, El Presidente, La Mulata, just a few of the cocktails made famous by the Cuban rum, have maintained their punch and popularity several decades following. But as home to the Grand Prix of International Cocktail Havana Club, first organized in 1996, Havana can easily relish in its role of cocktail mecca.



My Cuba Diaries: In Baracoa, casa particulares are thriving

Daysi Camejo Fiffe of Baracoa is a typical Cubana. She is hospitable, vivacious and kind. She smiles broadly. 

And yet, the plump, flamboyant Daysi stands out from the crowd. Apart from her day job at the local secretary’s office, where she’s been managing confidential documents for the past 32 years, she brings in extra income by renting her home, in what is known in Cuba as a casa particular.