Saturday, September 20, 2014
Welcome to America
As I had planned, Sergio's first hours in America were to be spent at Little Havana in Miami. Not surprisingly, his first impression of America was that it was like Central or South America, since all the people on the streets spoke Spanish and all store signs were in Spanish also. He seemed both relieved that he didn't immediately have to speak English and disappointed that America wasn't filled with the white cowboys he expected. Our quest was to experience genuine ethnic food and live music. I took him to "The Pub", an authentic Cuban restaurant, and we ordered a local platter of black beans and brown rice with plantain, topped with grilled pork loins, onion and seasonings. However, we could not find music since it was 4 PM on a Wednesday during the low season. After touring an art gallery filled with bright tropical Cuban paintings, and then watching locals playing dominoes in an open air plaza, we began to head back to our hotel. A modest-looking bar/buffet/ restaurant beckoned to me and I suggested we duck in for a cup of real Cuban espresso. It was virtually empty of customers. We were welcomed warmly by a smartly dressed lady, who seated us and hurried to have coffee made. People began entering the room from the back, some carrying flowers, presents and a delicious looking cake. There was to be a birthday party for one of the waitresses.We were at once included in the festivities and caught up in the laughter and merriment. A fellow appeared holding a guitar and then began strumming and singing Cuban folk ballads and love songs. I was later told he had been a famous professional musician in Havana before fleeing in the 1980's. He even stood before us and serenaded us. The music was rhythmic, exotic, and gentle. I sketched him quickly and then later captured the likeness of the birthday girl who desired my drawing as a gift. I felt the magical aspect of life enveloping me. We had found Cuban music and such an amazing cultural experience, yet the serendipitous and coincidental, cloaked in Cuban music and its cast of players had found us. Outside now, it started to rain and I spied a barbershop. I told Sergio that such places were excellent places to learn about the neighborhood. We were anointed in its colors and felt at home.