Culture

Mind Blown: Two Women In Cuba Invented An Extraordinary Way To Deliver Pizza From Their Rooftop Apartment

If you have a passion for something, there isn’t anyone or anything that will stop you from doing it. Success in any field, whether it is in your career, personal growth, family goals, etc., takes persistence and dedication. You must have a clear vision of how to make your goals and dreams a realization. The key is also understanding when to listen to others and follow critical advice. These are the many lessons we learned from two incredible Latina entrepreneurs from Cuba. 

Marta Castaeda is the owner of A Mi Manera (My Way) Pizzeria in Havana, Cuba, who found a perfect solution to selling pizzas from her apartment. 

Credit: Great Big Story / YouTube

Castaeda began her pizza business in 2010 with her husband, but after his unfortunate death, Castaeda partnered up with another woman, Marta del Barrio, and a new chapter of her business came to fruition.

According to Great Big Story, who interviewed the two women, the Marta’s said that they initially sold their pizza in a standard way. You see, they run their business from their apartment, and their kitchen is on the top floor of the building. When the pizzas were ready to serve, one of the Marta’s would have to walk down the flight of stairs, hand it to the customer, and walk back up. Castaeda said this method was tiresome. We can only imagine. Then a stroke of genius changed everything for their business. 

Lots of people suggested ways to perfect their business, but one person gave a stellar idea on how to sell pizzas more efficiently: send the pizza down on a basket. 

Credit: Great Big Story / YouTube

The invention worked. From then on the women took the orders downstairs, they’d call it up to the cook via phone, make the pizza, and deliver it down on the basket. While this is most definitely a clever and marketable way to sell pizza, they — like any business — also had some hiccups with this clever invention.

Castaeda recalled that one time, while a pizza was being sent down on a basket, it fell out and landed on a woman’s head. Now, we’ve lived in New York City long enough to know that if something is going to hit us on the head, we sure would rather be struck by a pizza than anything else. 

Castaeda is proud of her business, her partner, and how they’ve managed to be a successful, money-making venture in a nontraditional capitalist country. 

Credit: Great Big Story / YouTube

“Here we have to find a way to sell, to be able to maintain the license, so that’s what we have done with our resources, look for solutions,” Castaeda said, according to The Cuban History. She also said that people come from all over the island — not to mention all over the world — to try out her pizza. But mostly to see the pizza come down in its signature way from the rooftop. 

The name of her business A Mi Manera is at the heart of what makes this pizzeria a hit with the people. 

Credit: Great Big Story / YouTube

Castaeda discloses that pizzas are made exactly how the people want it. They can choose from a variety of toppings because the real taste that differentiates this pizza from the rest is in the sauce and handmade dough. While she does not disclose what’s exactly in the recipe, the pizzas are clearly a hit because people come from everywhere just to eat them. 

According to The Cuban History, each pizza typically sells for 12 Cuban pesos which are about 50 cents. We have one piece of advice for the owners of A Mi Manera pizzeria: increase those prices! Especially for tourists!! We also suggest they trademark this clever way of selling pizzas. We’re certain any pizza entrepreneur in the United States will see this and try to market it for themselves. 

At the end of the day, Castaeda said it’s not about making money but rather enjoying each other’s company by providing good food and humor.  

Credit: Great Big Story / YouTube

“Pizza helps Cuba survive and persevere,” Castaeda said in her interview with Great Big Story. She adds that they are always looking for ways to improve their business and she’s always open to new ideas especially from her partner. 

So how do they keep up with demand even on the busiest days? Castaeda said she always ready to for light humor on the job and is ready to make someone smile. 

“I always try to do things while laughing,” she said, “because laughter brightens up the day.” 

This woman needs to be lecturing business courses at every top university! Now, for the most important information. A Mi Manera Pizzeria is located at 919 Neptuno, La Habana, Cuba. You’re welcome! 

READ: Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza Is Getting A Mexican Makeover

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

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Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

subecuba / Instagram

The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to. 

A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana. 

Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube. 

Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”

One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well. 

The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González. 

What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash. 

Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed. 

It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”

Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb. 

It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.

READ: The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island

Twenty Years Ago The US Sided With Fidel Castro To Send Back Elián Gonzales, Here’s Why His Story Still Matters Today

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Twenty Years Ago The US Sided With Fidel Castro To Send Back Elián Gonzales, Here’s Why His Story Still Matters Today

About 20 years ago, 5-year-old Elián Gonazalez arrived three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale from Cuba, on a makeshift raft, in search of his relatives in the states and a better life. Gonzalez’s survival through the arduous waters that would drown his mother and a dozen others along the way, might have been the media’s narrative in a different circumstance. 

The 5-year-old would soon become embroiled in an international custody battle. Did Gonzalez belong back in Cuba with his father or in Miami’s Little Havana with his uncle which many believed was his mother’s dying wish? 

The communist leader of Cuba at the time Fidel Castro wanted him back — and although the U.S. government initially placed the boy with his Cuban-exile relatives, they would eventually side with the dictator

Elián Gonzalez arrived in Florida in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend.

Up until 2017, the United States had a “wet feet, dry feet,” policy with regards to Cuban migrants — all were welcome. The policy from 1966 allowed anyone who entered the United States territorial waters from Cuba, legally or illegally, to reside. It was revised in 1995 by the Clinton administration so that any Cubans retrieved in the territorial waters would be sent back, but if they made it onto dry land they would be allowed to stay. 

Gonzalez was found by South Florida fisherman in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend. The 5-year-old was welcomed by the anti-communist community of Cuban exiles. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service placed Gonzalez with his paternal relatives who lived in Miami and wanted to raise him, however, his father in Cuba demanded his son be returned.

 Under the “wet feet, dry feet” policy, Gonzalez would have to petition for asylum because he was discovered before touching dry land. This small detail would cause a six-month, international legal battle and shift the way many Florida Cubans perceive American politics. 

Courts decide to send Gonzalez back to Cuba. 

While Cuban demonstrators and empathetic Americans supported the stay of Gonzalez — the governmental powers that be were building a case that suggested otherwise. A Florida family court granted custody to Gonzalez’s great uncle in Miami. However, INS had the superior authority to decide that his real legal guardian was his father in Cuba. Had the boy’s mother survived, things might have turned out differently. 

On March 21, District Court Judge Kevin Michael Moore of Southern Florida ruled that only a legal guardian can petition for asylum on behalf of a minor. But on April 19, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Gonzalez could stay until his family could file an appeal. When government negotiations failed with the family, more extreme measures were taken to retrieve the boy.

On April 22, 2000, on orders from Attorney General Janet Reno, armed government officials raided Gonzalez’s home with guns and tear gas. A photo showing a crying 5-year-old Gonzalez with a large gun pointed to his face would later win the Pulitzer Prize. 

Gonzalez was safely repatriated back to Cuba.

The Gonzalez decision may have affected the outcome of the 2000 election.

Following the Clinton administration, the 2000 election was a turning point in American politics. Many Cubans felt alienated by the Gonzalez decision, and thus, walked away from the Democratic party altogether. 

“It was humiliating to Cuban-Americans, and the 2000 election was payback,” Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen told the Atlantic in 20001.

Republican George W. Bush won by 537 votes during a messy (and possibly corrupt) recount of the 6 million votes cast in Florida, beating out Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Known as “el voto castigo,” Gore received only 20 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared to Bill Clinton’s 35 percent in 1996. Thus, 80 percent of Cuban American voters chose Bush over Gore — which should be a lesson to both parties trying to build Latinx coalition. 

Bush would go on to start the endless war in Iraq, utilize Islamophobic rhetoric in the wake of 9/11, trigger one of the worst recessions, and until recently, was considered the worst president in U.S. history. Gore would go on to warn us about climate change decades before the discourse entered the national conversation. 

What has become of Elián Gonzalez today? 

Gonzalez, in his 20s, is now a communist and staunch supporter of the Cuban Revolution. He was welcomed with a celebration upon his deportation. On his seventh birthday, Fidel Castro himself attended his birthday party. 

Whether Gonzalez is on the right side of history is beside the point because the 5-year-old boy could not have become who he is today without instigation by the United States. Communist-sympathizer or not — he was correct about one thing: 

“Just like her [his mother], many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it’s the US government’s fault,” Gonzalez told CNN in 2013. “Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”