Monday, April 30, 2012

Guarapo de caña, as sweet as Cubans themselves

Perhaps because of their daily routine, some traditional drinks go unnoticed when speaking on Cuban cuisine. However, for their originality and roots in our culture, they occupy an important place in the history of food in Cuba. One of the main characteristics of Cuban drinks is their high sweet taste and that should be serve cold, with ice cubes. I would like to reffer to the well-known Cuban Guarapo de Caña (sugar cane juice), which is nothing more than the sugar cane strained juice. This ecological drink, besides having a pleasant taste and excellent nutritional characteristics to be rich in sugars, protein and calories, it is also one of the "traditional labels" of Cuban people during the summer months or dry season. Drinking a glass jar of chilled fresh sugar cane juice on hot days is a ruthless act of pleasure. The fascinating thing about the juice of sugar cane is, if not drunk just seconds after being obtained, it gets dark, and gloomy. So drinking this juice can not be a solo act, opening a sealed bottle, but the crowd of more than a traveler in search of the oasis.
It is common to see in the streets of Cuba the guaraperas (a mechanism to obtain cane sugar juice). It is a small electric press of fluted roller with a channel that collects the juice. It history dates back when black men were taken from Africa and forced to work as slaves (but this is another story). This juice, also known in Panama and Venezuela, is part of Cuban popular culture and due to its own characteristics, it has failed to be bottled so we should drink it very fresh, freshly squeezed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Flower of Holguin, Beauty Flower

Almost 20 years ago, it was discovered in the highlands of Pinares de Mayari, a site located about 100 kilometers from the province of Holguin in eastern Cuba, and protected by a special microclimate. It is beautiful and attractive. So small that anyone would shudder at their delicate petals and its elongated leaves. It is called Jazmin del Pinar or Manzanillo. Its flower is red, a color representing the protection of nature and green leaves ecosystem conservation, international symbols of environment. It was about two decades ago when it was proposed, including five species, that the Jazmín del Pinar was choosen as the Flower of Holguin, for being delicate and esave a historic legend that dates back to the time of the mambises. The flower of Holguin had to be unique to this province and should have had participation and legend in the historical and cultural life of the territory. Finally, it was needed to find among its features aesthetic values such as beauty. It was first discovered and collected in 1909 in Pinares de Mayari by JF Shafir, along the road of Piedra Gorda to Minas Woodfred, in Pinares de Mayari, at an altitude of about 400 or 500 feet above the Sea. But this flower saves more history. According to a survey made to farmers in Pinares de Mayari, the milky latex of this plant was used by the mambises to cause stomach upset to the Spanish soldiers. This delicate flower has been chosen on many occasions to pay tribute to martyrs and heroes of the nation for its significance among the symbols of Holguin. It was also chosen to be in the arms of the province which makes its brightness special. This plant is exhibited in the Botanical Garden of Holguin and Havana. And there are some samples in the Botanical Garden of Montreal, Canada. Although it loves the sun and rain and flowers all year round is not yet common in our gardens or view them rule over the green areas of schools and parks. It belongs to the Pascua and Cardona families, so who cultivate this plant should treated with respect and care.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pope's vist to Cuba: The rain also blessed our island

“I thank God for allowing me to visit this beautiful Isle which left so deep a mark on the heart of my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, when he came to these lands as a herald of truth and hope.” Said His Holiness Benedicto XVI in his recent visit to this caribbean island.

Pope's visit to Cuba was a religious and social event that marked the lives of Cubans. Both in the Holy Mass in the eastern city of Santiago, as in the capital, the Pope found a crowd that welcomed him with respect and affection.

And just like in old legends, rain conspired again to bring good omens to Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba, during the Mass in Santiago, there were believers and nonbelievers holding hands as a sign of peace under an unexpected rain that started to fall with the Lord's Prayer.

The same happened while the act of farewell to the Supreme Pontiff in Havana, where the people knowing that this was holy water, remained on both sides of the entrances to the Jose Marti International Airport of Havana, firm in their desire not to lose the opportunity to give a farewell to one who blessed this prodigal land, a land of people with determined convictions.

And Cubans, some without professing Catholic faith, we pray for a happy return of Benedict XVI to the Vatican.