Culture

They Were Banned From The U.S., Now They’re Ready To Cross The Border In Unlimited Numbers

When relations between the U.S. and Cuba soured in 1962, John F. Kennedy created a trade embargo, making the Cuban cigar a rare commodity in the U.S.

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Kennedy loved the cigars so much that he asked for 1,000 of them before he put the embargo in effect.

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Flash forward to today: diplomatic relations have started to improve and now these mythic cigars are now allowed unlimited access in the country.

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They should put an embargo on that horrible handshake.

And people are feeling it.

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But what exactly makes a Cuban cigar so special?

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Over the years, Cuba has refined its cigar making process, using only the best tobacco leaves.

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The making of each cigar takes over 100 steps that has been handed down from generation to generation.

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Quality assurance is very important.

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The creation of each cigar is monitored by Cuba’s government, which ensures the quality of each cigar that is made.

Cuban cigars are usually priced between $8 and $80, though some, like the limited edition Cohiba Behike, can cost up to $20K.

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Baller status confirmed.

When the embargo was put in effect, many Cuban cigar makers moved to other Caribbean and South American countries to continue making cigars for the U.S. market.

It sure is nice kicking back after a hard day's work with a Don Collins Corona Grande. #doncollins #cigar

A photo posted by GorillaRican (@gorillarican) on

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These Cuban farmers brought seeds from the original Cuban plants and began cultivating them in their new homes, ensuring that Cuban cigars would prosper in one form or another.

Many people claim that because the original Cuban makers left the country, today’s Cuban Cigar lacks the authenticity it once had.

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Several websites are dedicated to whether or not Cubans are as good as they once were, but it really comes down to preference.

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For years, U.S. citizens were forbidden from bringing Cuban cigars into this country, and violators were subject to serious penalties.

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But that didn’t stop people from trying.

Because of their scarcity, they’ve previously held a cult status in the U.S.

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Mainstream entertainment used the Cuban cigar as the butt (ahem) of many jokes.

Today marks the beginning of a new relationship with Cuba and the U.S., and hopefully our countries can begin to heal the wounds that have long plagued our relationship.

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In a statement released on the Whitehouse’s website, Obama laid out his intentions:

In December 2014, following more than 50 years of failed policy, I announced that the United States would begin a process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Since then, we’ve worked with the people and the government of Cuba to do exactly that – re-establishing diplomatic relations, opening embassies, expanding travel and commerce, and launching initiatives to help our people cooperate and innovate. This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people.

READ: There’s More To Miami Than Just Cuban Food

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Trump Administration Just Deported 120 Cubans On A Single Plane

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Trump Administration Just Deported 120 Cubans On A Single Plane

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We can’t imagine what the energy or conversations might have felt like on the ICE plane that deported 120 Cuban immigrants in one fell swoop. Many of the deportees had reportedly passed credible fear interviews, during which they showed proof of the violence and persecution they would face if they were sent back. This deportation is one of the largest deportation missions of Cuban immigrants in years. 

While Trump is the current president allowing for deportation, President Barack Obama is responsible for removing deportation protections from Cuban nationals, an agreement signed during his last days in office.

“South Florida should be up in arms,” immigration attorney, Randy McGrorty said.

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One of his clients is a Cuban national who sought asylum in the U.S. through the Mexico border. McGrorty told The Miami Herald that his client was on that flight to Havana, but an eleventh-hour paperwork glitch allowed him to be removed from the plane. In a statement, ICE said that “ten special response team operators” were assigned to the flight given “the charter flight’s high number of removals” in order to “ensure adequate mission security onboard the flight.”

The majority of those on the flight didn’t have assigned attorneys.

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The Miami Herald cites “ICE sources” who have said that the majority of those on the flight had passed credible fear interviews. Those interviews are simply the first entry point to being granted permission to apply for asylum, but it doesn’t mean they’re granted asylum. We can’t predict if they would have been deported had they been given attorneys. We don’t know whether the deported group were made up of recent migrants or long-time residents.

President Obama signed the “Joint Agreement” during his last week in office that requires Cuba to accept all deported Cuban nationals.

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Word for word, the document says, “The United States of America shall return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba shall receive back all Cuban nationals who … are found by the competent authorities of the United States to have tried to irregularly enter or remain in that country in violation of United States law.” Effectively, it ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans to be granted protections the moment they were on U.S. land. Those Cubans had the opportunity to gain legal residency.

Before the “Joint Agreement,” Cuba had a history of rejecting deportees from America, forcing the U.S. to fly the deportees back.

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The ICE statement continues to explain that, “the large removal charter is made all the more significant given Cuba’s longstanding status with respect to accepting the return of Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States and abiding by key provisions of the U.S.-Cuba Joint Statement. Cuba has a long history of being deemed an uncooperative country.”

As the U.S. relations with Cuba have changed, Cuba continues to remain a communist Castro regime.

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Fidel may have perished, but the regime remains strong. “Let’s see what happens to them upon arrival,” McGrorty told The Miami Herald. “Are they going to have access to employment, a place to live? Are they going to have benefits that the other Cubans have? Are they going to face persecution?” Cuba has historically rejected accepting its nationals back because of their public criticism against Castro, or even because they’re age might be a burden on the country’s healthcare. 

More than 37,000 Cubans in the U.S. have been given orders of removal.

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Several attorneys confided in The Miami Herald on the basis of anonymity to raise awareness for a settled community in the U.S. facing persecution. Their clients have lived in South Florida for decades, remaining in compliance with their attendance orders from ICE, and, today, are sitting in detention centers awaiting a decision from Cuba on whether it will accept them back. Cuba can take as long as 90 days to make that decision, given that “The Joint Agreement” only applies to those Cuban nationals that immigrate after the January 12, 2017 accord. 

Cubans make up the largest number of asylum seekers right now.

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Venezuelans and Nicaraguans take the second and third place in asylum-seeking. Compared to Trump’s first year in office, there have been 4.5x as many Cubans deported so far this year. It doesn’t matter how long Cuban nationals have been in the U.S. If they have a criminal record, they are likely going to be deported, and, now, suddenly, Cuba may actually accept them.

READ: More Cubans Are Being Detained And Deported One Year After ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Was Eliminated

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

Culture

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

Great Big Story / YouTube

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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“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. 

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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.  

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“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