Day 30: Cuba

Cuba is the largest and most populated Island in the Caribbean Archipelago; the country itself is actually a chain of 4,000 islands.  Cuba is famous for its music, dancing, rum, tobacco, and food.  Its history is linked to an influx of European immigration through conquest, slave trade, and shipping of natural resources and commodities back to Europe.  In contemporary history, more than 1.5 million Cubans have immigrated to the United States and President Obama made strides to change the cold ware era policies in hope of a different future for our two countries.

Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba.  Translated literally, it means "old clothes," which this shredded beef dish resembles.  Typical sides include fried yucca and mixed rice and beans, and plantains.

Cuban Cuisine 

A Clockwork Fricassee: (bottom) Pork, (left) Ground Beef, (top) Chicken, (right) Shredded Beef.

Rincon Criollo features a number of traditional Cuban dishes from eastern Cuba.  Many of these dishes are Fricassee.  Fricassee is a much debated term which generally gets reduced to stewed meats.  Fricassee is originally from France, and is a creamy based stewed meat dish.  One thing that makes Cuban Fricasse unique is that they move away from the typical cream colored sauce and are red sauces.  Plantains, Yucca, and Black Beans and Rice are featured prominently as traditional sides.  The local name for black beans and rice is moros y christianos, which translated means, Moors and Christians.  This name is a shadow of Spanish influence in Cuba, and a reminder of the rocky past between Muslims and Christians in Medieval Europe and North Africa.

Immigration to The United States

More than 1.5 million Cubans have immigrated to the United States.  This was the fallout from Cuba being used as fulcrum between the US and Russia during the cold war.  President LBJ began an open door policy which encouraged Cubans to make the then treacherous journey by flotilla to Florida, a mere 103 miles away.  President Clinton later instituted the Wet Foot Dry Foot policy which meant that any Cubans stopped on the water would be sent back, while any who made it to land would be granted asylum.  In reopening ties to Cuba, President has effectively stopped the wet foot dry foot policy.  Ironically, US immigration policy is different based on if a country is an ally or not.  If you are our friend then we send you back, if you are our enemy then you get to stay.  It is still uncertain what the future of US Cuba relations will be and what the recent changes will mean in the long run.

Here are the highlights of US Cuban Relations

Nicknames in Cuba

Life in the neighborhood in Cuba, where names are common, lead to the widespread use of nicknames. Many of these nicknames are blunt characterizations of obvious physical features. Listen to NPR commentator Ana Hebra Flaster talk about nicknames on the street in Cuba.