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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Culture

Pride and nostalgia: Three days of Cuban food, culture, history - and most of all - memories

Posted May 19, 2003 by publisher in Cuba Culture.
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BY ANABELLE de GALE | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Miami Herald

Like bread crumbs, they lead him home.

‘‘That smell,’’ he said. “That sweet, green, fresh-cut scent.’‘
The stack of sugar-cane stalks sent Mario M. Almoza’s mind packing.

“I remember the train, the fields and the big factory. My father worked every day in that factory. My cousin and I helped him as young boys.’‘
For Molina and thousands of other Cuban Americans, the trip down memory calle began Friday, with the opening of the fifth annual CubaNostalgia at the Coconut Grove Expo Center.

For many, the three-day trade show of Cuban arts, food, culture and history is as close to home as they will ever again be.

‘‘It was originally meant to be a sidebar to the Calle Ocho festival,’’ said Leslie Pantín Jr., president of CubaNostalgia and one of the creators of Carnaval Miami. “We thought, let’s put a call out and see what people have in their attics and garages. The idea was a flea market but what we found were professional collectors.’‘

Its debut year drew 25,000 visitors and grew to more than 30,000 last year.

MIXED CROWD

‘‘We have several audiences,’’ Pantín said. “Of course, there’s the Cubans who remember. Then there’s the non-Cubans who have heard every story about Cuba there ever was and want to see what all the fuss is about. Then there’s our kids, who also want to see what we have been talking about all this time.’‘

Close to 40 vendors and 33 exhibits will run through Sunday, giving people a feel of the island’s pre-Castro years.

A massive map and super-sized satellite photo of a 1953 Havana allowed folks to find their homes, schools and playgrounds. Pantín was able to pinpoint the rooftop of his house at 4411 Fifth Ave. A.

The window front of El Encanto, Cuba’s major department store, has been reconstructed to look as it did in 1940. Inside, perfumes and linens that decades ago were exhibited on its racks are again for sale.

‘‘This is exactly what it looked like,’’ said Jacinto González, who worked in the men’s department for 23 years. “I still remember my regular customers.’‘

Six days a week, he opened the department at 9 a.m. and shut it down at noon for lunch. The store would reopen at 2 and close for the day at 4 p.m.

New at CubaNostalgia is La Bodeguita, a typical Cuban grocery store. On the shelves are Kirby Garbanzos chick peas, Nela condensed milk and bitter orange seasoning.

`GOOSE BUMPS’

There’s a baseball hall of fame, chronicling the history of Cuba’s four teams. Decades-old political cartoons, yearbooks, artwork and more.

At Cafe Raul, once a popular corner store on the island, the cafecitos were still three cents.

‘‘It just gives me goose bumps,’’ said Mery Fernández of Miramar, who left the island in 1980, when she was 8 years old. “I have seen my country torn to pieces. It is wonderful to see some of it has survived.’‘

Among the exhibits: A tribute to Celia Cruz.

‘‘she is to Cubans what Frank Sinatra is to Americans,’’ said Cristobal Díaz-Ayala, who donated his $1 million-plus collection of Cuban sheet music, books and photos to Florida International University.

Pieces of the collection are on display at the event.

For some, it was the little things that triggered the images of the lives they left behind.

SWEET REMEMBRANCES

Like lollipops.

Called pirulís, the sweets brought back the Cuba of Trudy Aguilar Zaldívar’s youth.

‘‘This is the only memory I really have. We’d eat them while vacationing at the beach,’’ said the Westchester resident, who came to the United States when she was 5. “Cuba is a flavor and this is what it tastes like to me.’’

Member Comments

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On March 30, 2004, poo wrote:

pooo oo pooo pooo

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On December 08, 2004, chelsea Long wrote:

I need a food that is made in Cuba for a School progets can you please help me???
              Chelsea Long

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On November 27, 2007, billie-jean wrote:

i REALLY REALLY need help on a spanish project. all i need i a list of food that people eat in cuba, i also need activities people in cuba enjoy and places that people should zisit when they go to Cube.  please please please help me ,,, im desperate !!

            Billie-Jean