Everyone deserves to own an outfit that makes them feel like dancing, and this is mine. Is it the ruffles on my top? The prints on my skirt? Or maybe the inspiration from my Cuban heritage that makes me wanna shake my way to some ropa vieja.
Growing up with four Cuban-born grandparents, I assumed rice and beans were its own major food group, I gained an early appreciation for women like Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan and smelled like Agua de Violetas for most of my baby years.
Most importantly, though, I learned to never give up on my dreams, to always work hard for what I want and to do it with family by your side. So, while my grandparents, parents and I are all proud American citizens there is always a part of Cuba that is ingrained in our family’s culture.
This year has been a milestone for both Cuban and American history when the embargo was lifted, allowing Americans to travel to Cuba. Earlier this month, Chanel chose Cuba as the destination to showcase its Cruise 2017 Collection, and fashion powerhouses Ralph Lauren and Vanity Fair chose Cuba to shoot collections and editorials. For the first time in a long time, Americans are able to experience the vibrant culture that Cuba has to offer.
If you’re looking to experience Cuban culture for yourself, but can’t leave the country here’s what I suggest:
- Check out Tony Mendoza. This Cuban-American artist is not only incredibly talented but also my cousin. You can view his work first hand, on many murals in South Florida as well as purchase your own prints on his website linked (here). The use of vibrant colors, whimsical painting style, and inspiration from his Cuban heritage make every piece so fun and unique. My family owns many prints by Tony, but my favorite is entitled Ropa Vieja. In Spanish Ropa Vieja is known as a classic (and my personal favorite) Cuban dish of shredded beef, but translates in English to ‘old clothes’. See Below..
- On Your Feet! This broadway show is about the life and rise to fame of two famous Cuban’s Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Heartwarming, inspiring and so much fun, this show is a must see! You will be doing the conga for days after.
- Visit Calle Ocho, Miami. Click the link to see National Geographic’s walking tour highlights of this famous Miami street. There are so many Cuban highlights in Miami you can experience without leaving the country.
Looking for a bigger ‘taste’ of Cuban culture? Here are some of my recommendations:
- Havana Central. With four locations in NY and NJ you can eat Cuban food in a classic Cuban setting. Check ahead to see nights where bands play live music.
- Cuba. This spot in Greenwich Village is another great restaurant and rum bar to enjoy some classic dishes. Live music on Fridays and Saturdays can really set the mood, and top the night off with their hand rolled cigars.
- Tina’s Cuban Cuisine. If you’re looking for no-frills classic Cuban sandwiches and empanadas, look no further than Tina’s. If you’re thinking about stopping by for lunch be prepared to wait on line!