14 May Baracoa
After a 34 hour Cuban Train ride, we woke at noon in Casa La Marina; feeling refreshed from a few hours sleep. We were glad we’d pushed the final leg to Baracoa. We ordered lunch from our guest house owners, Roberto and Tarcy, and walked around the neighborhood chatting with locals while they prepared it. We returned to find a meal nothing short of amazing: veggie soup, rice with white limas, shrimp in a tomato garlic sauce and fried plantains. We decided to lay down after lunch and slept till seven, our bodies still reeling from the trip.
When we woke up, we headed out to explore Baracoa and met Alberto, the manager of La Trova, a venue for traditional Cuban music but the set had just finished and we made plans to come back. We then met another man while in search of dessert who led us to a state-run sweet shop where we ordered two bowls of ice cream for 3.4 cup (approximately 4 cents.) After a chat with him, we learned that after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, that many Cubans ate grass boiled in seawater for the taste of salt.
Then we stumbled upon the restaurant of a celebrity in Baracoa, the poet – an inspired man with a packed house where he sang and recited poetry. He gave us a private room in the back by the kitchen and began a barrage of sweets including Cucuruchu (fruit, cinnamon and coconut milk), Frangoya (banana and coconut milk), Mascora de cacao (Raw, hollow cacao fruit) filled with chocolate ice cream and topped with fresh tart cacao seeds, and two balls of cacao to be grated and used to make hot chocolate. All of these delicacies were unordered gifts.
Shortly thereafter, he sent three of his best students to spontaneously recite poetry, sing and play tres for us. Their words were so patriotic that we found ourselves drawing conclusions between socialism and fascism. Here is an excerpt:
“Fidel, defenderemos tus convicciones / pero si el imperio viene / otro giro les daremos”
Fidel, we will defend your convictions / but if the empire comes / another
round we will give them
However, the poet explained later that one wrong line in a poem and he’d be carted off. He was clearly an intelligent man, discussing socio-economic collapse and the robbery that is religion. Further, he charged us nothing; asking us only to pay what we thought was fair.