Tag Archives: On Cuban Time

Lighting My Way


The past week or so, I haven’t been able to get thoughts and feelings about my trip to Cuba out of my head.

And last night, on the drive home from the AMAZING Straight No Chaser concert, I was looking at the streetlights and it hit my like a ton of bricks: my abuelo, Papi, died on December 11, 1999. It hit me as if I was hearing the news for the first time instead of just remembering it 12 years later. Ok, maybe not THAT hard. I did cry when I finally got home, but I didn’t weep. And then I had a fresh sense of loss when I wished I could talk to him about Cuba and what’s happening there now and what he thinks.

All that thinking and remembering kept bringing up a post I wrote shortly after I got back.

So here is the post that has been in my head all day. The orginal can be found HERE and the rest of the stories from my trip can be found HERE.


As I said before I left for Cuba, I went with no expectations. I went with an open heart and an open mind. I went with a mission. And I accomplished it. But what I didn’t expect (literally) was to find Papi everywhere I went.

If I am going to be perfectly honest, I DID think that I would feel SOMETHING when I got that first glimpse of Cuba out of the plane window…

But I didn’t.

On the way to Tio Timbiriche’s house my eyes were more like saucers; I was just taking everything in.

After my primo and I rented a car, the real adventure began. I didn’t have time to think. I just kept soaking everything in. There was one thought pressing on my mind though as I stood looking out at the Malecón and El Morro: Papi.

My abuelo, Papi, was an Electrical Engineer and he was out working on the lights for the Malecón when he and his crew were arrested, jailed, and some of them were killed the next morning. By some miracle, Papi was released. He left his homeland with the plan of being gone a few months and ended up never returning, until I brought him. I couldn’t help but have a surge of pride that the lights Papi put up where still there.

I begged my cousin to bring me back when they were lit, and he did. I felt the internal click I had been waiting for. The warm lights gave me a sense of comfort and even a hope for the future of a coutry that is in so much turmoil and disarray.

After I accomplished my mission, I thought that would be the end of the Papi chapter of my trip, but that was not the case. Ask anyone who has made the trip from Havana to Varadero and they will tell you to do it in the daytime because it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. That had been my plan, but in the true spirit of embracing the moments as they came to me and in an orchestration of events that I think could only have come about through Divine Intervention, the sun had set by the time we reached the city limits of Havana and the street lights had been lit.

I had always known about Papi’s lighting the Malecón, but it was all I’d ever known about his projects in Cuba. While I was marvelling at the uniqueness of the street lights, my cousin turned to me and told me that Papi had done those too. I had been marvelling at my abuelo and he was the one who was lighting the initial steps of my way to Varadero.

The plan had been to return from Varadero in the late afternoon of the next day. It didn’t happen. We didn’t leave Varadero until it was dark which meant we came home to Papi’s lights. I can’t even remember what ridiculous reason had us pulling over, but my cousin (who had no idea how much I was being affected by the lights) had stopped the car in the perfect place under one of Papi’s works of art.

I saw and did an incredible amount of things in a short amount of time. I traversed three provinces in three days. I couldn’t entirely comprehend why I was never too afraid, but I think it might have something to do with Papi being with me the whole time . . . lighting my way.

La Vida es una Rueda


If Kikitiando had a theme song it would be the Willy Chirino song, “Lo Que ‘sta Pa’ Ti

The first line is:  “La Vida es una ruleta”!

Pero, the way I did New Year’s Eve, it was much more a Rueda.

New Year’s Eve has always been very special to me. My abuelos were married NYE so I have many happy childhood memories of the big anniversary parties we would throw for them. When I eventually get married, I plan on doing so on NYE and so I’ve always been very protective of my plans and how I bring in the new year.

I have never kissed anyone at midnight. I’ve had some after midnight kisses, but not any midnight kisses and I have worked hard to keep it that way.

I am all for traditions, especially Cuban New Year’s Eve Traditions, and have found it rather difficult to kikitiar at  midnight if I’m out and about. Plus, the idea of being out while so many drunk people are out just doesn’t sound like fun to me. I never liked the 200 Cigarettes type of pressure that seems to follow New Year’s Eve. So I like to stay home, alone. I make sure the house is clean. I get all dressed up, and I enjoy hours of tv. I like to pick a tv show and just watch as many episodes as I can… it’s gloriously decadent. In the minutes leading up to midnight, I’ll pour myself a glass of champagne and drop a sugar cube in it (a trick I learned on Moonstruck and it makes me smile). I’ll have a bowl of 12 grapes sitting on the table by the door, right next to the suitcase and the bucket of water and the money.

At midnight, the minute of madness ensues. While wearing my yellow underwear, I’ll toast the New Year saying, “El ano que viene, en Cuba” while dumping the bucket of water out the door, eating the grapes, walking outside with the suitcase and putting the money into the mailbox … and laughing hysterically.

It’s special to me and I just love it. These past couple of years, though, my antics have been somewhat thwarted and I’ve had to modify my traditions… seemingly, for the better because now I consider myself kikitiando through the new year. It started last year, I found myself with a driving need to go out dancing. Pero HOW could I GO OUT if I was going to accomplish all my Cuban New Year’s Eve silliness? Simple…

I now celebrate New Year’s Eve on Cuban Time.

So last year, when 9 PM rolled around, I was dressed up, wearing my yellow underwear for good luck, eating 12 grapes for prosperity, toasting* and saying “Next year, in Cuba,” dumping a bucket of water outside and then running (in my high heels) with my suitcase to the mailbox to put in my money.

An hour later, I was out dancing, so when midnight California time came around, I was dancing. It was THE. BEST. NEW YEAR’S EVE. EVER!

This year… was different.

My brother’s birthday happens to fall on December 30th which means that he tends to get lost in the Christmas shuffle, unless he does what he did this year… have a party on New Year’s Eve. Not just any party, a murder mystery dinner party. That’s great… for him and his friends. His friends are not my friends, though. And how was I going to succeed at being alone with a house-full of partiers? As I was resigning myself to my fate and the bad luck I’d have in 2011 for skipping out on my NYE Kikitiando, I received an invitation to a Salsa Party.

Some new friends who love salsa dancing as much as I do were having a house party. Problem solved, sort of… The party started at 3 in the afternoon.

I rose to the occasion. Forget the grapes! Forget toasting! It isn’t truly kikitiando if it can’t evolve, right? Of course right!

Instead of wearing yellow underwear I WENT CRAZY! I wore HOT PINK & ORANGE with WHITE POLKA DOTS!

I still dressed up and I decided when I arrived at the party at 6 PM that I would still celebrate “on Cuban time.” I know that it was the right choice and that God loves me because at 9 PM I was smiling and dancing in a Rueda. When the dance was over, I grabbed my mojito, walked outside and whispered to the freezing night air “El ano que viene, en Cuba.”

It doesn’t get more Cuban than that!**

*I toasted with Martinelli’s because I knew I would be driving shortly thereafter.

**I may or may not have knocked over a bucket of melted ice that was already outside and taken 12 bites of the pastelito I’d grabbed from the dessert spread in the kitchen… por si acaso… 😉

A Traditional Cuban New Year’s Eve . . . Kikita Style


This year, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma as to how to handle my New Year’s Eve.

Usually I enjoy being alone and celebrating with all the classic Cuban traditions. I eat twelve grapes, run outside with a suitcase, put money in my mailbox, wear yellow underwear (or am I supposed to wear red? I can never remember and usualy end up wearing both), dump a bucket of water out the front door, and toast to the New Year saying “El año que viene, estamos en Cuba.”

I have done the “alone” thing for years. I get all dolled up and then crack myself up trying to get all the New Year’s “business” finished in the first minute of the new year.

But I was feeling like I wanted to go OUT. I wanted to be dancing. I had no desire to kiss anyone… (in fact, I’ve never kissed anyone at Midnight on New Year’s and I knd of like it that way) I just wanted to dance!

I spent most of the day cleaning. I cleaned everything. I even mopped and saved the dirty water!

And I came up with a win-win plan: Celebrate New Year’s Eve on Cuban Time the Cuban way and then go dancing and not kiss anyone!


I was ready with my grapes and champagne and suitcase and yellow panties and at Midnight Miami Time I was cracking myself up and running around doing my thing. Afterwards, I got ready and went dancing. And since I was going to do things MY way, I switched out the two pairs of panties (one yellow and one red) for orange with white polka-dots and hot pink lace. (Hey, why not?)

I went to a nearby dance place (because I am not a fan people who drink and drive and I figured the less time I had to be on the road, the better) and found some fun people to dance with. At midnight, the gentleman I had been dancing with, much to his credit, did not try to kiss me and as soon as the next song started we were back on the dance floor.

Basically, my night was exactly what I hoped it would be which means this next year will be too, right?