Taking a break from the fast-paced filming of “The Fate of the Furious,” Michelle Rodriguez slowed things down to give fans a tour of Cuba. From the trailer for the movie, we already know that many action-packed sequences take place on the Pearl of the Antilles, so of course Rodriguez had some familiarity with the island. And much to many people’s surprise, Rodriguez dropped her Spanish skills when talking to the tour guide.
Unlike other countries, where Porsches and GR-Rs dominate street-racing, in Cuba many of the cars are highly modified relics of the past. Michelle was given a first-hand tour of an auto shop, which she described as, “the kind of place where you can get the gnarliest level of innovation.”
For many in Cuba, modifying these old cars is a way of life.
Thanks to sanctions from the U.S. and a foreign car import ban, for more than 50 years Cuban citizens had to jump man hurdles to acquire a newer model car, The Telegraph reported. Using Cuban ingenuity and innovation, these old cars are often souped up for high-speed races and have enjoyed a longer life than they might have had otherwise.
Of course, Rodriguez couldn’t help but ask if mechanics in Cuba were aware of the “Furious” franchise.
Rodriguez’s tour of the island took gave her an intimate look at the culture and the sights that rarely make it into the movies. And after her time in Cuba, Rodriguez broke down the message she walked away with, saying whether it’s in the music and dancing, or the love of old architecture and cars, passion is everywhere in Cuba.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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!
Among the dilapidated buildings in Downtown Juárez lies Little Habana, a new restaurant emblazoned with Cuban flags, classic car art, and blasting reggaeton music providing the local growing community of Cuban asylum seekers a reminder of home.
NPR recently reported about the new eatery that owner Cristina Ibarra opened four months ago once she noticed the burgeoning Cuban community that’s developing in the area.
She ran a taco business for 20 years before opening up a place that’s meant to evoke home for the refugees.
“The Cubans leave their hotels and come to eat at the restaurant as if it were their own home,” Ibarra told NPR. “They stretch out, relax and talk. They share their experiences, their fears, their accomplishments … and that gives me tremendous satisfaction right now.”
The dishes are not interpretations but authentic recipes since all of her 14 employees are from the Caribbean island and advise her on menu items.
The menu includes traditional fare like ropa vieja, pork chunks in a tomato stew, and three different types of rice. Her efforts extend to the decor and interior as well with bright orange and yellow walls, art depicting a street scene in Cuba, and, naturally, the lone star amid the red, white, and blue of the Cuban flag hanging on the wall.
The restaurant opening occurred around the time of a new policy introduced by the Trump administration nicknamed “remain in Mexico” since it requires those seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their claims are processed. Before the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy, those seeking asylum could reside in the U.S. while they waited.
The number of Cubans at U.S. entry ports and categorized as “inadmissibles” by Customs and Border Protection continues to increase with more than 20,000 expected to seek entry this year.
In 2016 during the Obama administration, the U.S. deported 64 Cubans but in 2018, the Trump administration deported 463 and this year that number will increase to 560, the LA Times added.
“I just don’t see a solution to our situation,” González added. She now sells french fries at a stand in Ciudad Juárez making $10 a day, which barely pays for the guesthouse room that she shares with four Cuban male migrants, WSJ reports.
Though MPP affects all asylum seekers, Cubans have historically received better treatment as they were viewed as political refugees.
For decades, Cubans caught at sea would be forced to return but if they stepped foot on U.S. soil they could stay and seek permanent residence after a year and a day. Obama ended the policy, known as “wet foot, dry foot” – in January 2017 and Trump has not reinstated it.
Now the Trump administrations has banned U.S.-based cruise ships from traveling to Cuba, economically affected groups catering to tourists on the island, and he also imposed restrictions on sending money to the island.
While they wait for a decision on their case, economics continue to plague Cuban migrants who find work where they can in order to pay for whatever housing they can find in what’s considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
NPR spoke with Melba, 32, a waitress at Little Habana who arrived in April and told them that she’s found meaning in her work as she tends to fellow Cubans who, like her, eagerly await to find out if they’ll ever make it to the U.S.
She and her husband rent a hotel room for about $12 a day and she earns about $20 per day plus tips at the restaurant, NPR reports. This is in stark contrast to her life in Brazil, where she worked as a doctor for nearly a decade as part of a Cuban government exchange program, the LA Times reports. When she was asked what she’d say to Trump if she could, she told the publication, “In Cuba, there is no freedom like you live.”
As the Trump administration continues to make it harder for Cubans and fellow asylum seekers to gain admission to the U.S. and the economy on their island deteriorates, places like Little Habana provide not only a taste of home but a respite from the inhospitable treatment they otherwise receive outside the restaurant walls.
Share this story with all of your friends by tapping our little share buttons below!