My Cuban Perspectives Blog https://mycubanperspectives.com All about Cuba Wed, 18 Sep 2019 17:02:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.3 What To Do And See On Your Cuba Holidays? https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-8/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 17:02:29 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=97 What To Do And See On Your Cuba Holidays?

DSC_0634
Source: Flickr

Something I often find myself getting asked from friends and relatives who know my expertise in the island is what the average Cuban holiday actually involves. This is a question I simultaneously love and hate answering – I love it because it gives me an opportunity to chat at length about a topic I love, but I hate it because if they’ve asked that question it means I’m going to be there for a while. You see, simply put, there is no ‘average’ Cuban holiday, and everyone goes to the island for different reasons and receives a unique experience in return. The experience holiday makers get on their Cuba holidays can be relaxed, cultural, exhausting or breathtaking – but never forgettable.

For a start there’s the accommodation – your ‘average’ Cuba holiday maker will first have to decide whether they want to stay in the lap of luxury in a five star resort, or to opt for the basic but more authentic experience of staying in a private house with a local. Whichever style accommodation you opt for, what you choose to with your days is the next point at which the idea of a stereotypical Cuba holiday shatters: You could choose to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes and charming caves at the stunning Vinales Valley, enjoy the open roads and unexplored areas of the island with a hire car (the roads are virtually deserted, as evidenced by the dozens of hitch-hikers) or be that little more active with some horse-riding or diving to discover the wreckages of sunken ships!

Havana is an area I have already written articles about (and no doubt bored those who have asked me to death with my desire to share my enthusiasm) but it really does deserve a mention here for the ample and varied opportunities it provides Cuba holiday makers. Culture vultures will delight in the museums, while music aficionados will be truly taken with the salsa clubs and live jazz that is hard to miss in the city. The big city life gives the capital a real energy, and with a population of around 2,000,000 it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the place, which at times feels an uneasy mix between modern metropolis and 1950s throwback – part of the charm of the place is its seeming fixation of classic cars that you just don’t find (still working) anywhere else in the world! And escaping the big city life is easy – the beautiful white sands of Havana’s beach is just a 30 minute trip away from the town centre.

But a Cuba holiday isn’t just about Havana, and while it would be very easy to spend your whole holiday there and feel you’d taken in so much that you must have seen everything, the truth is that you’d be majorly missing out.

Take Varadero for example – as Cuba’s biggest beach resort with an impressive 12 mile long peninsula, this is the ideal spot for those looking to experiment with water sports or diving on their Cuba holidays. Then there’s Trinidad, which history buffs will delight in: the quant village feels virtually unchanged in 300 years and as a result is positively steeped in history. Or for more recent highlights in the island’s history, who could resist a trip to Santiago de Cuba – cradle of the Cuban revolution and nowadays a luxury spot for foreign visitors to the island?

There are hundreds of ways you could spend your Cuban holidays and I’m really only scratching the surface. Spend your whole time on one activity, or mix and match your hobbies to create a unique Cuban adventure, one thing’s for sure: There’s no such thing as a typical Cuban holiday.

]]>
The Seven Wonders Of Havana – Things To Do In Cuba’s Glorious Capital https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-7/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 17:00:34 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=89 The Seven Wonders Of Havana – Things To Do In Cuba’s Glorious Capital

Recently, for the first time in over 2,200 years the seven wonders of the world were reassessed. Over 100 million people voted and decided that the Great Wall of China, Rome’s Colosseum, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru, Rio’s Christ the Redeemer and the Taj Mahal would make the best new wonders.

Certainly narrowing down the finalists from an initial list of hundreds can have been no easy task – most countries can probably compile a list of seven themselves. Cuba, which is of course my speciality, has many architectural and cultural triumphs worthy of celebration. Hell, even Havana itself has enough aesthetic wonder and cultural heritage for me to wax lyrical for several pages. In the interests of brevity and in matching the arbitrary figure placed on the number of wonders allowed in one world, I shall limit my list to seven sites worth examining on a Havana holiday.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present (in no particular order)

The Seven Wonders of Havana

Plaza de la Revolución

The enormous square has seen many political rallies and the feel of history and importance of the area is tangible. The square’s podium has seen many important political speeches from Fidel Castro and other prominent figures on important days in the Cuban calendar. While Castro is infamous for his long speeches, the public events always prove popular, attracting over 1,000,000 Cubans over the years.

The square is dominated by the impressive José Martí memorial – a tower in honour of a national hero killed in the 1895 Second war of Independence. At 138 feet high, the imposing structure is the highest point in the city and visitors may take a lift to the very top of the building. Behind the memorial are the offices of Fidel Castro himself, and opposite is the iconic image of Che Guevara that marks the Ministry of the Interior’s building – a staple sight on any Havana holiday.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

This modern art museum is divided into two distinct part. The Collección de Arte Cubano is dedicated to Cuban art created between the 16th and 20th century, while The Collección de Arte Universal has a far wider scope. It includes art from Italian, French and Dutch painters as well as including artefacts from Latin America and ancient Greece.

Cigar Factories

Cuba is practically synonymous with the word “cigars” and a visit to one of the three major Cuban cigar factories in Havana can give a good indication as to why. The three main factories give tours which allow the visitors to see the hand rolled cigars in production. Partagas is the oldest factory (founded in 1827) and keeping with tradition hires a reader to entertain the workers by reading aloud. Partagas and the two other main factories, La Corona and Romeo y Julieta have shops attached which allow visitors to purchase cigars as souvenirs.

Museo de la Ciudad

The building that now houses Havana’s museum treasures has a past that predates the revolution and evokes images of when Cuba was a non-Communist state. The building once housed the island’s colonial governors and was the palace of the Captains General. Built in 1791, the museum’s exhibits give a feel of the history of Havana – from the city’s foundation to the present day. The museum naturally devotes a sizable section to the Cuban wars for national independence, but also houses a diverse range of other exhibits showcasing the island’s art, porcelain, paintings, furniture, folklore and archaeology.

Capitolio Nacional

An important landmark in the centre of Havana, the Capitolio Nacional is an impressive site. It looks remarkably similar to the US Capitol in Washington DC, and is now home to the National Library and Academy of Sciences. Some of its rooms are also used for state events, in a nod to its history where it once seated members of the Cuban congress. Directly underneath the memorable dome, an imitation 24 carat diamond is set into the floor, which measures the distances between Havana and all Cuba’s other sites.

Habana Vieja

The old city was founded in 1519, and was often a target for pirates which explains the dilapidated, yet still imposing, remains of Havana’s city walls. Nowadays the old city includes museums, hotels, shops and restaurants to line the picturesque cobble stoned streets. The plazas are marked by meticulously restored colonial buildings and attractive churches, which make the perfect backdrop for Havana’s old city life as it goes by. The region also includes La Bodeguita Del Medio – a bar made famous thanks to its patronage by Mr Ernest Hemingway.

Museo de la Revolución

What used to be the Presidential Palace and Cuban Government’s HQ is now fittingly a museum of the revolution that saw them ousted. The building is still aesthetically astounding, but the insides have changed to house pieces, photography and documents pertaining to the Cuban Revolution. The building isn’t the only imposing sight upon approach to the museum – out the front is the tank driven by Fidel Castro during the Bay of Pigs battle, and behind is the yacht that brought Che Guevara and Fidel Castro from Mexico to Cuba in 1956.

Aside from these main aesthetic Cuban wonders, there are countless other things to do in Havana. It is truly a magnificent city – a one of a kind mixture of 1950s America and Caribbean lifestyle. If you are considering a holiday to Havana, this list will really help you get into the Cuban spirit and gain an insight into the rich history of the city.

]]>
In Search Of The Real Cuba https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-6/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:59:41 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=101 In Search Of The Real Cuba

Habana Outpost15
Source: Flickr

Cuba these days is a rather fashionable tourist destination. Tourists head out there, looking to enjoy the beaches, the wonderful weather, the diving and the salsa. And while all of these provide wonderful diversions for Cuba holiday makers, they are also often entirely artificial, created purely for the tourist market that invariably laps it up. For some, this is not enough, but with the tourist industry largely built on these foundations, where can you find the real Cuba on your holidays?

The answer surprisingly lies in the nation’s capital, Havana. Though it is a popular tourist area, the real Cuba lies in its narrow side streets and dusky alleys. The city’s history dates back as far as 1515, and if you’re really serious about seeing the real country you will be prepared to forgo the 5 star resorts touted around the internet in favour of a private house or ‘particular’. This will give you a real sense of living on the island in a style more in line with the locals, and has the added bonus of costing no more than $20 per day for one in a prime city centre position – perfect for the standard Cuba holiday sightseeing.

If you have not been sent running for the Varadero beaches by the experience, it’s time to continue living the Cuban life with a lesson in gastronomy – a “paladar” will provide this. Some years ago, citizens of Havana won the right to open a restaurant (serving no more than 12 people at a time) in their homes, restricted to serving only chicken and beef dishes. Locating one of these will not only give you an insight into how Cuban people live in the capital, but will give you a taste of the real Cuban cuisine rather than the tourist equivalent.

Being a guest in a Havana citizen’s café/home is on thing, but where is best to mix with real Cubans? The answer would be checking out some of the local bars. The most famous of these is of course Floridita bar, which was a home away from home for the great Earnest Hemmingway. If you’re looking to fit in with the locals, and not stand out as a common Cuba holiday maker, a Dauquiri (rum, lemon juice, sugar and maraschino) or Mohito (rum, ice and mint) will help, as well as show you why Cuba is renowned for its fine rums.

While this will give you a good insight into how Cuban locals live, there’s more to the island than just the human population. If you are in search of exotic jungle and a look at the natural beauty of the island, then the island of Cayo Levisa provides a calm, aesthetically pleasing retreat. It’s a 20 minute boat ride from the mainland, but the island is home to tropical jungle, sandy beaches and dazzling coral reefs with exotic marine life. While it’s not free of Cuba holiday makers, this spot gives you an insight into how the island was before it was populated.

For a beach virtually untouched by tourism, though you can’t beat Cayo Largo. The 6 hour boat ride puts off the majority of Cuba holiday makers, creating a peaceful tropical island virtually untouched by tourism. The best thing to do here is to enjoy the amazing peaceful scenery and relax away from the strains of the working world.

I’ve only really scraped the surface here, and the real Cuba will be unique for each visitor, but if you follow my suggestions and feel able to explore beyond the standard tourist world, you will discover a way of life a million miles away from anything in the UK, with enough anecdotes to last until your next visit to this tropical paradise.

]]>
A Cuba Vacation https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-4/ Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:56:32 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=103 A Cuba Vacation


Taking time out from the everyday stresses & strains of life to visit an exotic place is something that everyone looks forward to.
Cuba, with its notoriety brought upon by its government & the clamp down of the American government on its export & tourism, is a country known more for its cigar & its leader, than as a holiday location. Despite this, every year more & more tourists from Canada & Europe are flocking to Cuba, enthralled by its natural beauty & its passionate & welcoming people. Tourism in Cuba is currently at an all time high.

Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands & is inhabited by people with a mixed race of Caribbean Indian, African & german heritage. it’s a contrasting landscape ranging from gorgeous & mesmerizing beaches to sprawling & craggy mountain ranges. Limestone Mountains loom over the fields of tobacco, utilised for their famed cigars, providing a stunning scenic view. The natural beauty of Cuba & its history has shaped the country to what it is today. This is seven Caribbean island that has been left unspoiled by technology & modern day living.

Aside from stunning beaches, Cuba also offers plenty of rustic towns & cities full of rich culture & heritage. A holiday to Cuba is not complete without visiting at least seven of the Cuban towns or cities & meeting the local Cuban people.

Like lots of of the Caribbean islands, Cuba’s main source of tourism is the beach industry. The country is blessed with hundreds of miles of sprawling sandy beaches, with fine white sand & clear blue water. Tourists visiting Cuba have a multitude of choices for the location of their beach holiday. The major resorts of Varadero & Cayo Largo are the most renowned & here you’ll find lots of 5 star all inclusive resorts. Despite this, there’s also plenty of smaller, quieter beach resorts where you can truly get away from it all.

Havana also has its fair share of museums, including the Museum of the Revolution, the Havana Club Museum of Rum, the Cigar Museum, the Ernest Hemingway Museum & the National Museum of Fine Arts.

In the north-west of the country you’ll find the capital city, Havana – the hub of everything that is Cuban. When you stroll around the city you’ll feel the essence of the Cuban past – a rich legacy emanating from the german colonial architecture that beholds the city. Parts of the city resemble the set of an old movie, reminiscent of a bygone era, with old American cars bustling by. A lot of work has been done in the past decade to restore old Havana, a UNESCO world heritage site, but much of the city has been left untouched & hundreds of crumbling buildings collapse each month.

Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city in Cuba & is located on the eastern end of the island. it’s a gorgeous setting at the foot of the Sierra Maestra Mountains & overlooks a magnificent bay. Unlike the other towns & cities in Cuba, Santiago de Cuba has a Caribbean feel to it. This is as a result of the influence of the Haitian planters who settled here in the 19th century.

Trinidad, located in the heart of Cuba is seven of the original towns & was founded in 1514. The city is filled with cobbled streets & old buildings with tiled roofs & has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. it is a pleasant city to spend a day or two, with lots of museums, churches & Plazas.

An ideal way to spend your holiday is to take a few days to do some sightseeing in Havana or seven of Cuba’s other cities & then follow that up with a relaxing week’s stay in seven of the luxurious all inclusive resorts by the beach.

]]>
The Botched Bay of Pigs Invasion https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-5/ Tue, 17 Sep 2019 16:26:51 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=99 The Botched Bay of Pigs Invasion

In the wee morning hours of April 17, 1961, nearly fifteen hundred Cuban exiles
descended upon the Bay of Pigs, Cuba. Their mission: to overthrow Fidel Castro’s
government. From the first hour of fighting, however, it became evident that the
overthrow attempt was fatally flawed.
The exiles’ invasion was designed by the United States government. The US was wary of
Fidel Castro’s presence in their hemisphere. His communist regime and close relationship
with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev led to fears that Cuba would become a base for
communism throughout Latin America. They hoped to overthrow Castro and establish a
US-friendly government in his place. In 1960, President Eisenhower therefore approved a
CIA plan entitled “A Program of Covert Action against the Castro Regime”. That year,
Cuban exiles commenced guerrilla war tactics training in Guatemala. President
Eisenhower cut diplomatic ties with Cuba in January of 1961, and when President
Kennedy succeeded Eisenhower, he approved the pending invasion plan. It included
outlines for intelligence gathering, propaganda, and military training.
According to the plan, the entire invasion would transpire without evidence of US
involvement; it was supposed to look like a spontaneous Cuban insurrection. For
example, before the operation began, CIA operatives (some disguised as Cuban students)
traveled to Cuba to prepare for the invasion. Their task was to destroy bridges and other
infrastructure, and to make it seem as if Cuban residents themselves were resisting
Castro’s revolution.
The US government therefore did not reveal the plan to the American public, but
continually denied its existence. On April 17th, when the invasion was already underway,
the U.S. Secretary of State announced in a press conference, “The American people are
entitled to know whether we are intervening in Cuba or intend to do so in the future. The
answer to that question is no. What happens in Cuba is for the Cuban people to decide.”
Kennedy and the CIA truly believed that many Cubans would choose to provide support.
When the exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs (Bahía de Cochinos), surely they’d be greeted
with spontaneous support from the local population. Then, it was expected, locals would
usher the guerrillas to Havana and a new government would be installed.
However, loose talk in Miami drew Cuba’s attention to the impending US invasion. It
could hardly be called “A Program of Covert Action” anymore. Castro prepared in part
by rounding up Cubans who might be supportive of change; this removed 100,000
suspected supporters of democracy from the streets.
At the same time, Castro prepared his army to quickly halt the exiles. Twenty thousand
Cuban ground troops easily overwhelmed the small US force. His air force effectively
patrolled the skies. By the time fighting ended two days later, about a tenth of the exiles
had been killed. The others escaped to the sea or were taken political prisoner. (Later,
Castro would exchange most of the men for $53 million in baby food and
pharmaceuticals. )
Of course, the new Kennedy Administration was embarrassed by this military failure.
Some observers said that not enough force had been provided; the 1,400 US troops were
too many to conduct guerrilla warfare, but too few to overcome Castro’s forces. Also,
crucial air support – a promised “umbrella of defense” — was missing; US jets arrived an
hour late because of a misunderstanding about time zones!
The ground force of Cuban
exiles had been trained to rely on air cover that failed.
The botched US-backed invasion increased the resolve of the opposed parties. Castro’s
relationship with the Soviets tightened immediately. The US secretly started planning
Operation Mongoose, which had goals of sabotaging the Cuban economy and perhaps
assassinating Castro himself. The invasion also heightened Castro’s caution regarding the
US. From the Bay of Pigs invasion onward, Castro was especially vigilant for a US
incursion on his soil. Both regional and global tensions escalated. By 1962, the US and
Cuba were caught up in a missile crisis, and the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

]]>
Cuba: An Overview https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 21:11:07 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=70 Cuba: An Overview

Ryan Sally
Source: Flickr

Cuba, beauty in simplicity, a haven, a paradise, an experience. One of the largest Caribbean islands, Cuba is all you can dream of and a little more. Endless sandy beaches, captivating culture, old-age architecture, friendly locals, delicious cuisine, it is a place you would not want to leave. Cuba consists of the main island, the Isle of Youth and about 4,195 keys commonly known as cayos. It is 140 kilometers from the Bahamas and 180 kilometers from Florida. Cuba’s 11,200,000 inhabitants predominantly speak Spanish. Journey with us as we take you down the alleys, past the favorite haunts and experience with us the true magic of this virgin holiday destination. Join us as we rediscover Cuba’s past, revel in its present and predict what lies ahead.

History has recorded that Cuba was originally called Cubanascnan. Christopher Columbus called it Juana. Colonization was credited to a Spanish soldier Diego Velázquez who established Baracoa in the year 1511. With his success he went on to establish Santiago de Cuba in 1514 and Havana in 1515. Thus began the era of the Spanish rule. The 1830s sparked the independence movement, which gained momentum after 1886 when slavery was abolished. Cuba’s history has seen several phases. Some of great success and some of great loss. It has traveled many roads but has never lost focus on its final destination. This desire to triumph past persecution and revolt has succeeded in Cuba being a free country today.

The spirit of Cuba is well reflected in its anthem. The phrase ‘do not fear a glorious death, because to die for the country is to life’ portrays the fierce loyalty the people have for its island. The Cuban national flower is the butterfly jasmine, Trogon is its national bird, and the royal palm is its national tree.

Think of a land with 6700 species of plants, 14,000 species of invertebrates and 650 species of vertebrates. Think Cuba. Hidden within its enchanting forests, arid mountains and lush plains there is a plethora of wildlife unique to this part of the world. It is a hikers dream come true, as the winding trails reveal over 350 species of birds. Cuba has four mountain ranges and Turquino (1,974 meters) is the country’s highest peak.

Comfortable cotton is recommended for Cuba’s warm climate. Although the average temperature hovers around 25.5ºc, the average relative humidity is 78%. Depending upon the season, a raincoat and an umbrella may come in handy too! Cuba is full of must-see places. From the plantations of Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province to the Varadero beach, from the Great Natural Park of Montemar to Cienfuegos- The Southern pearl, the country is brimming in tourist attractions.

Travel with us through these pages, as we give you a glimpse of a country that has so much to offer that Christopher Columbus called it the Pearl of the Caribbean. Meet the people at the bustling market places, enjoy the aroma of authentic Cuban cuisine and take in the sheer splendor of this scenic paradise. Come with us and we will understand if you want to linger a while longer…

]]>
Classic Cars In Cuba https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-3/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 21:09:28 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=66 Classic Cars In Cuba

Havana is a potent mixture of the old and the new. Modern office buildings punctuate the skyline alongside deteriorating Eastern European residential towers. Ancient vehicles, some with more rust than paint, share the road with newer, shinier models, while horse-drawn carts mingle with motorcycles. Flea markets display Cuba holiday mementos – wooden models of cars built in the 1950s, which are still seen on Cuban streets.

‘Yank tank’, ‘máquina’ ‘cacharro’ and ‘bartavia’ are all words used to describe the American classic cars in Cuba. It is the only place where history and circumstance have combined to enable a whole society to preserve these amazing vehicles and turn them into a national treasure.

About 150,000 classic cars existed at the time of the 1959 Cuban Revolution when the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. After this, international trade was made very difficult, so the cars that were present at the time have been nurtured and cared for ever since.

Of the 60,000 classic cars in Cuba, about half are from the 50s, another 25 percent from the 40s and a similar number from the 30s. Brands include Chevrolet, Ford, Cadillac, Buick, Plymouth, Chrysler, Dodge, Willy’s, Oldsmobile and De Soto – vintage models of all of these can be seen on Cuba’s roads today.

Nostalgia

As a clash of cultures and ideologies, few experiences compare with that of rounding a corner in the heart of Old Havana with its crumbling baroque buildings and coming face to face with a gleaming 1955 Thunderbird that looks as if it had just been driven off the lot.

Cubans are increasingly aware of the value of classic cars, particularly when visiting Americans become nostalgic about them. They realize that there is business to be made from hiring them out, and it is therefore possible for those on holiday to Cuba to hire out a classic car for the duration of their stay. Although there are more classic cars in the US overall, an American would have to go to Cuba to see a concentration of the cars filling the streets like a snapshot of 50s USA come to life.

Cuba holiday makers feel they have stepped into a time warp to that perhaps more innocent age, when Americans sported prim and proper outfits and drove shiny, sparkly-wheeled cars in brilliant colours with fins and chrome bumpers. The cars made driving feel special. The size of them and the comfort gave a calm feeling for a time when people were able to take their time and enjoy the good things in life.

Care & Attention

While classic cars are still used for daily transportation, often as taxis, they have also become cherished heirlooms handed down from generation to generation within families, in some cases going all the way back to the 30s.

Most owners of classic cars spend hours applying waxes and polishes and basking in the praise and admiration of passers-by. Some even reminisce about a time when their cars were new, and life itself seemed brighter and as inviting as an open highway.

To own one of these vintages defines who you are, how you spend your time and how you wish to be known, and Cubans will go to incredible lengths to keep their classic cars running. 1950’s bumpers and tailpipes are recreated and myriad other parts are adapted. Steering wheels carved from wood, hub cabs made from aluminum cans and plastic sheets for windows are common. While such shortcuts would be frowned upon in the United States, classic car lovers admire the Cubans’ ingenuity and their ability to keep the cars running.

The Future for Classic Cars in Cuba

Each day these cars get closer to extinction. They are now outnumbered by boxy Russian Ladas, Volga sedans and more recent Eastern European and Japanese imports. But the biggest threats to Cuba’s classic cars are the scarcity of parts and lack of original factory literature to maintain them with uniform standards.

Hopefully they will still be preserved for years to come, even if they become increasingly temperamental with all the alterations they go through. If you’re thinking of hiring a classic car on your Cuba holiday make sure to make a ceremonial splash of rum on the car’s floorboard for good luck!

]]>
How Can You Tell Fake Cigars From The Real Cuban Cigars https://mycubanperspectives.com/cuban-2/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 19:39:26 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=68 How Can You Tell Fake Cigars From The Real Cuban Cigars


Everyone knows that Cuban cigars are the most coveted cigars, renown worldwide for their smoothness and rich flavors.
How do you tell if what you have is a fake or the real thing? First, make certain that you purchase your cigars from a legitimate dealer. Buying from your local tobacconist or a reputable mail order business can protect you from forking your money over for a box of fake cigars. Indeed, Cuban cigars are so prized that many illegitimate dealers have been known to sell fake Cubans to unsuspecting cigar smokers.

If you have an opportunity to purchase a box of purported Cuban cigars, but have your doubts, take the time to examine the box before purchasing it. A high quality cuban cigars will normally cost you between $18-25 US dollars. Here are a few tips to help you spot the fakes from the real Cuban stogie.

The most important thing to examine is the box. On the bottom of the box of cigars, you should find a heat stamp with the words ‘Habanos.’ The heat stamp should be impressed onto the bottom of the box. Fake Cuban cigar boxes often find other ways to imprint this label, such as using rubber stamps or paper labels. You should also find a factory code stamp at the bottom that is stamped in green, blue or black ink. This stamp will tell you when and where the cigars were rolled.

Authentic Cuban cigars will contain a green and white warranty seal on the left front side of the box. The seal will contain an insignia that has a picture of a shield and a hat. On the upper right hand corner of the box, you should find a white sticker that is placed diagonally with the word ‘Habanos’ printed on it. Even if the cigars are the real things, their quality may have suffered in transport. If you are in the market for Cohiba, Trinidad, or Q’dorsay brand cigars, know that all authentic Cohiba’s will contain the green and white warranty seal on the right hand side of the box.

The overall appearance of the box should be neat and clean. If the box appears damaged, smudged, frayed, or marked, avoid it. If the color of the box is dull, don’t buy it.

The bands on all the cigars should also be identical, and should be arranged so that they face the same direction. The Montecristo brand has made some minor change to its bands – the paper is now a shiny gloss similar to the bands of most of the other major labels, instead of the older plain matte finish. And, a “hook” has been added to the edge of the fleur-de-lis symbol.

If allowed, test the cigars out by pressing down on them. Feel along the entire length of each cigar, checking for soft or hard spots. The cigars should feel firm yet pliable. If you can open the box, take the time to smell the tobacco. Cuban cigars will have a deep, rich aroma, unmistakable to dedicated cigar aficionados. If the smell is off, or very weak, chances are you do not have a box of authentic Cuban cigars in your hands. The cigars should be facing the same way, and the top row may appear slightly flattened. The caps on all the cigars should appear identical, and the foot of each cigar should be cut clean.

Fake cigars cost manufacturers millions of dollars each year so it’s important to report fake cigars to authorities as soon as possible. If you’ve bought a cheap cigar from your local corner store, chances are, they are fake. Ask your vendor where they get their cigars from. www.altadis.com is the official supplier of Cuban cigars in Spain and France. In the United States the company is known as Altadis USA – www.altadisusa.com and Habanos S.A. is the sole company in Cuba responsible for the marketing and promotion of Cuban cigars around the world.

]]>
Culinary Traditions Of Cuba https://mycubanperspectives.com/culinary-traditions-of-cuba/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 19:07:35 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=42 Culinary Traditions Of Cuba

The East Caribbean island of Cuba has a rich cultural heritage from which has arisen culinary traditions that are as vibrant and varied as the variety of cultures that have contributed to the development of this distinct and delicious cuisine. In addition to the ancient influence of the native peoples of Cuba, the Spaniards brought their own culinary styles, tinged by those of the Moors who held huge parts of Spain for centuries. The slaves that were brought from Africa made significant culinary and cultural contributions, with other culinary traditions being brought to the island with the French colonists fleeing uprisings in Haiti.
As these various influences came together, a distinctly Cuban flavor and style evolved, which is reminiscent of country peasant styles of cooking by oral tradition and eye, rather than relying on specific measurements and the creation of dishes that tend towards the simple and hearty, and that can be left on their own to simmer. Fussy, heavy sauces are unusual and deep-frying is simply not a favored cooking method. The island nation, naturally, uses a great deal of seafood in its cuisine, which encourages the use of simple cooking techniques and spicing that is meant to enhance, not smother, natural flavors.
The most common spices used in Cuban cuisine are garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves. Sofrito is also popular, and used in a wide range of dishes, from those of beans to those of meats to those that are made from a base of tomato sauce. A typical sofrito is made of green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and black pepper fried in olive oil until the pepper, onion and garlic are soft and translucent and the flavors blend to perfection.
The dense, nutritious, energy producing vegetables commonly used belie the African and native peoples’ influence on the cuisine of Cuba. Yuca, malanga, boniato, and plantano are among these, and are often simmered together with complementary vegetables and served simply, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh onion – a satisfying, strengthening and simple dish for a hard working people.
Meats are often prepared using island flavored marinades of that use lime juice or the juice of a sour variety of the orange as a base. Then, the meats are roasted or simmered very slowly with spices, often for hours. Beans and rice are an essential part of most meals, with black beans being well known as a Cuban specialty.
Cuban cuisine is also notable for its baked goods, which include a variety of turnovers. Some are filled with spiced meats and other types feature a particularly Cuban blend of cream cheese and guava paste. Flan is among Cuba’s most beloved dessert items.
In Cuban cuisine, the subtle flavors of healthy foods are enhanced by cooking and spicing methods designed to bring out the best in each component of a dish. The culinary traditions of Cuba are a delight to the tongue, naturally, but they also offer a fascinating glimpse into a culture that has brought together many varied elements to create a cohesive whole.

]]>
The Best Food Cuba Has To Offer https://mycubanperspectives.com/the-best-food-cuba-has-to-offer/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 19:06:45 +0000 https://mycubanperspectives.com/?p=43 The Best Food Cuba Has To Offer

Cuba is famed for its beaches, diving, lifestyle and dancing. But one aspect of the Cuban holiday which is often overlooked is the Cuban cuisine, which is unfortunate because the mixture of cultures combine to make a truly unique combination of flavours and textures. The country’s cultural influences are so diverse as to create a unique flavour to the food – a mix of Spanish, Chinese, African, Portuguese, French and Arabic.

Yet these global influences are completed by indigenous local food stuffs – yucca, malanga and boniato are local root vegetables routinely used in Cuban food. The main meats used in Cuban cuisine are chicken, pork and beef (though the latter is subject to rationing as government property, so is harder to find) usually marinated in citrus juices and slowly roasted until tender. It’s simple, but delicious, and something that will see you hunting out the best restaurants throughout your Cuban holiday.

Cuba is also home to even simpler snacks and light treats. Masitas de Puerco Fritas (lightly fried pork cuts, slow cooked until tender), Pinchos (kebabs) and Fritas (the Cuban hamburger, spiced with shoestring potatoes and onion) all put this country’s fast food to shame not only in terms of value, but flavour. So below is a quick list of some of the dishes to look out for while enjoying a holiday in Cuba.

A quick note of warning for vegetarians, before I begin though: You’re likely to be considerably less gushing about Cuba’s food than your carnivorous friends. The concept of vegetarianism for ethical, health or religious reasons is virtually unheard of. You should still be able to find something, either from the large quantities of local fruit or the handful of rice and bean dishes available, but Cuban cuisine is unlikely to be a highlight of your vacation.

Chicharrones

These are hot thick belly cuts of pork with skin, a layer of fat and meat. The flavours and textures to combine for a tasty (though not necessarily good for you!) snack. You may find these sold in Cuba’s markets and cafes, and are the perfect antidote for a growling stomach while exploring.

Masitas de Puerco Fritas

As mentioned above, these are pork chunks slow cooked until tender and then fried lightly in their own oil. Often these are served with sliced onions and ‘mojo’ sauce. Surprisingly filling for something considered a lighter snack!

Arroz con Pollo

This chicken and rice dish is actually popular throughout Latin America – its principally made up of rice, chicken, vegetables, herbs and saffron. It’s not a million miles from Paella, but in Cuba, the dish has a slight variation whereby it includes garlic and tomato – it can be highly spiced, but not spicy hot. This one is worth trying for the authentic Cuban experience, as it’s a popular Sunday lunch dish on the island.

Moros y Cristianos

This dish translates as “Moors and Christians”, and its name is supposed to hark back to times when Moors and Christians lived alongside each other on the island. The basis of this recipe is black beans (the Moors) and white rice (the Christians) and the dish is found throughout the Caribbean. Of course, the Cuban version is delicately spiced giving it a unique localised flavour.

Ropa Vieja

Don’t let the Spanish translation of this put you off (“old clothes) – Ropa Vieja is one of the more popular dishes in the Caribbean, and as ever the Cuban version leads the way in terms of delicate spicing. The basis of the dish is shredded beef, vegetables in a sauce (usually tomato based). As with much Cuba cuisine, local belief is that it tastes better on the day after preparation, when the flavours have had greater opportunity to mingle.

Cuban sandwiches

These make a wonderful lunch food – and were made popular on the island in the 1930s with sugar cane workers. Using Cuban bread (similar to French and Italian loaves), the sandwich is lightly toasted and typically contains roast pork (sometimes marinated in garlic or citrus), ham, dill pickles and swiss cheese and mustard. Once you have had one of these you will crave them for the rest of your days!

Costillitas

These are mouth-watering babyback ribs, marinated in typical Cuban fashion with citrus, garlic and herbs and then cooked slowly for the best part of an hour to guarantee tenderness. They are then typically served with black bean and rice.

I’ve barely scraped the surface of Cuban food and drink here – the beverages, for example are unique and the deserts (unsurprisingly for an island with so much sugar cane) are some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Hopefully this should convince you that a holiday in Cuba can be just as focussed on the food as a vacation in one of its more culinary renowned holiday rivals.

]]>