Happy 10, Babalu!

Como Estas?

With those two small words, a legacy was born.  Whether he knew it or not at the time, my uncle has left his mark, not just for our family but for the world. This blog has been recognized in media outlets and by political experts as the place to go for the truth about Cuba.  Just thinking about all the wonderful articles, events, and opportunities Val and the rest of the Babalu contributors have been a part of because of this blog brings great pride to our family.

As with anything political, there have been some arguments, some differences of opinion, and many battles of wits, but at the core is a passion shared by all of us, contributors and readers, for a free Cuba. Throughout the last ten years, we have become a family. We all have a common goal, liberation for our beautiful island and its people, and Babalu Blog will continue the fight for that dream to come true as we have done for the past decade: with truth, passion, and love.



Val, thank you for your passion for Cuba. You have taught me that where we come from is just as important as where we are and where we are going. Thank you for this beautiful gift I can share with my boys. With it I can teach them the same lessons you have taught me.  I love you.

Family Tree

Something beautiful has been happening on Facebook for the last couple of weeks.

My sister and my cousin have started a group with the goal of having a family reunion next year. We are hoping this is the first of many reunions. Those family members that are on FB and can maneuver the site have been posting old family pictures. What’s pretty spectacular is that my great-grandfather was one of 17 siblings, so there are tons and tons of people involved in trying to make this reunion happen. Tons of pictures are being posted, wonderful memories recounted by my mom, uncle, and their cousins.

My mom has taken a family tree one of her cousins has been working on for years, and has tried to find pictures of each family member. This tree is massive, as you can imagine, so she wants to create a photo book with each “branch”, including their children and grandchildren. Here’s a small sample of what my mom is working on:


It’s amazing how after years of hearing certain names, I’m able to make connections through the images.

Here’s another one of my favorites:

Lopez-Aldana family

From left to right: My great aunts Amanda (who I’m named after), Ondina, Olga (who I called Happy when I was little, and it stuck), Queta (my Godmother), then my great-grandmother and great-grandfather lovingly known as Chicha and Chu (or La Prima and El Primo), followed by great-aunts Lulu, Mary, and my grandmother Tete. The little girl on the table? My mom, I estimate about 3 or 4 years old.

I am elated that we are so close to something tangible that I can share with my boys to show them the wonderful line of men and women they come from. I know that all those family members who are no longer with us are looking down at us and smiling, beaming with pride at the seeds of love they planted. I invite you to do the same, generations to come will be able to keep not only the memories of loved ones alive, but those wonderful old stories as well.

Brandon’s Cuba Project

My second-grader needs to make a project pertaining to his family’s country of origin. The report needs to include the following:

Geographic location
Holidays and Traditions
Traditional food and beverage

We have researched the following information regarding Cuba, as well as used our personal knowledge, and we’re putting the project together on the project board between Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Here are the things we’ve come up with so far:
•The capital is Havana
•The official language is Spanish
•Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1492
•The official name is The Republic of Cuba
•Some items that were exported from Cuba to other countries are sugar, coffee, and tobacco
•Cuba is located in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
•Cuba has a tropical climate. There is a dry season between November and April, and a rainy season from May to October.
•The Cuban Flag is red, white and blue, with one star and 5 stripes, one for each of the original five provinces.
•The are now 14 provinces in Cuba
•Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba. Boxing is also very popular.

Holidays and Traditions:
Family and friends are very important in Cuban traditions and customs. Christmas is celebrated with large gatherings. A pig is roasted to provide food for the entire family. There is traditionally no gift exchange or mention of Santa Claus.
New Years includes a fireworks display. The Cuba people believe in doing away with the bad times of the past year and looking forward to good times of the new year.

Birthdays: A lot of people are invited to join the celebration, even if they do not have children. There is a lot of dancing, and a competition to break a piñata filled with items. Girls have a vey big fancy party when they turn 15 to celebrate.

Food and drinks:
Cuban food is a combination of Spanish and Caribbean cuisine. Some favorites are black beans, rice, bread, plantains, and pork made in a Caja China. Media Noche is a very popular sandwich. The Frita is a Cuban burge with little French fries inside.
Ironbeer and Materva are sodas that were invented in Cuba. Cubans also like to drink Malta, and many Cuban people drink café Cubano in the morning, after meals and when they have guests in their house.

Traditional dress:
Men wear guayaberas and women wear guayabera dresses. They dress in light clothing since it is so hot there. They also use hats to protect themselves from the sun.

I wanted to check with you all to see if there’s anything basic I may have missed. Please leave your suggestions in the comments. A reminder: please be mindful that this is a project for a second-grader, and content should be appropriate for that age level.

Thanks so much!

(Cross posted at Brandon’s Puppy)

Cuba Nostalgia Weekend

We’re approximately 60 hours away from the start of Cuba Nostalgia 2010, and I can guarantee it’s going to be a great time! Not only does this weekend mark the 30th anniversary of the Mariel boatlift (with an apropos exhibit on display during the entire event), but they are honoring the late great Beny More.

Cuba Nostalgia opens on Friday, May 21st from 11am-11pm. Friday is also our dear Marta’s birthday. Marta and Amy will be in town, and we’re celebrating Marta’s birthday at Havana Vieja on Friday night. Everybody’s invited!

Saturday, Day 2 of Cuba Nostalgia, is also the day the World March for Cuban Freedom takes place. If you’re in Miami, attend the walk at SW 8th Street and 13th Avenue at noon. Afterwards, come visit us at Cuba Nostalgia.  If you’re not in town, click here for a list of marches near you.

Saturday also happens to be my little sister’s birthday. Since Val and the rest of the Babalu family can’t come to her party, the party is coming to Cuba Nostalgia. We will spend most of the day at CN, followed by a late night celebration to see one of my sister’s favorite bands play at a local bar.

Sunday is the final day of CN, and your last chance to visit all your favorite contributors at the Babalu pavilion. Stick around and watch Andy Alfonso y La Orquestra Clase A jam at 5pm.

Family and friends (and two birthdays!), great Cuban food and drink, lots of nostalgia, and wonderful music, including El Beny….can you think of a better way to spend the weekend?


My sister wrote this earlier today, what do you think?

Because my blood is red, white, and blue
Because I dream of the ocean and the breeze
Because I can I smell “los cigarros”
and hear the sugar canes being cut

Because I was raised on Gloria, Willy, and Celia
And my plate had maduros, arroz and frijoles
Because baseball is in my blood
And a “carrera” is better than a homerun

Because “te amo” is better than “I love you”
And un beso is better than a kiss
Because a man in a guayabera,
Is a sight that can’t be missed

Because I rather play dominoes than checkers
Because I need “un cafesito” like I need air
Because my family loves that island
And cuba libre would only be fair

Because the beat of the drum moves me
And the music feeds my soul
And these hips were made for dancing
And these hands were made to hold

Because the passion in this body
Is from the island full of soul

-Maura Lopez

Heavy Hearts

Hello all,

It is with much sadness that I announce that our beloved Tio Pepin passed this morning at 2am. I know I speak for all the members of our family when I thank you all for your kinds words, warm thoughts, and prayers during the last few months. Although this is something we’ve been expecting for some time, the loss of a loved one is never easy, but the support of the Babalu family (contributors and readers alike) made it a bit easier to bear.

I’m sure Val will have more to say in the near future, but right now he is by my grandfather side as he deals with the reality of losing his big brother.  Again, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

R.I.P. Tio Pepin


Generation ñ reborn

It’s a great feeling to see a fellow Cubano succeed, especially if that person played a small yet pivotal role in your life. It seemed like just yesterday (though it’s been about 10 years) I’d wait impatiently every month for my Generation ñ magazine to arrive in the mail so I could devour it from cover to cover. I loved the Cubanisms scattered throughout and the interviews with famous Cubans and Cuban-Americans, and of course the stories (including quite a few pieces written by a certain uncle of mine). I was even lucky enough to hang out a time or two with Bill and his then-girlfriend Lynn. Generation ñ’s abrupt departure left a gap in my Cuban-American heart.

Well, Generation ñ is back, and with a vengeance. We’ve mentioned our friend Bill a few times before, and it seems that people are paying attention. He was featured a bit over a week ago in the Miami Herald, and just yesterday in the local morning news. Check him out, and check out Generation ñ online. If you liked the magazine, you’ll love the site. Bigger, Better and With More Cowbell.

(Cross posted at Brandon’s Puppy)

UM Students Chat with Cuban Students via web

The University of Miami sponsored a student chat between students at the Coral Gables campus and students in an undisclosed location in Cuba. The article states the chat was uncensored. I’m not so sure about that, we all know how the Cuban government oversees all communication in and out of the island. However, the Cuban students did make one request:

Students speaking from Cuba asked their fellow Cuban exile students in Miami to help them gain access to information on topics including journalism and human rights. The Miami students promised to try.

Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Food for Thought

I read this article, and all I could do was stare at my computer screen. It seems unbelievable to me that some people still believe that lifting the embargo and allowing travel to Cuba will help the Cuban people and suddenly put food on their tables and money in their pockets. The ignorance is overwhelming.

“Clarion farmer and Iowa Corn Promotion board member Deb Keller said allowing U.S. tourists to visit would give Cubans more dollars to buy ag products.”

Um, right. Are those the same dollars that the Cuban government pockets? The dollars that the common people never see, the same ones their family members and friends need to smuggle to them for goods in the black market?
It’s been said time and time again on this blog: the current state of Cuba is not the fault of the “embargo”, but the fault of one man. Any guesses as to who that might be?

A little humor

I received this by email a couple of days ago. Enjoy!
Un cubano busca un amigo para que lo ayude en la traducción con un doctor.
En el consultorio del doctor:
Doctor: What’s wrong with your friend?
Amigo: Dice el doctor que ¿Qué es lo que tienes?
Cubano: Dile que me duele en medio de las paletas y el dolor me sube hasta la sien.
Amigo: He says that his popsicles hurt in the middle and it goes up to the one hundred.
Doctor: What else?
Amigo: ¿Que mas tienes?
Cubano: Las muñecas me duelen mucho en las mañanas.
Amigo: He say his dolls hurt very much in the mornings.
Doctor: Tell your friend he is mentally retarded.
Amigo: El doctor dice que te pongas mentolato por las tardes