Cuban Heritage Day - "Tremendo Vacilón"

The 2nd Annual Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium has come and gone and it was, by all accounts, a huge success. 

I'm still a little overwhelmed by all the fabulousness and fun of celebrating baseball and Cubanity(<--it's a word, right?) with my people. And it was the hottest stinking day of the summer in LA, so, if this is a little incoherent, please forgive me ahead of time. Still recovering from the heat.


Picture this: Cuban music playing (loudly) from the stage. Once a song starts, the smile of recognition quickly spreads across the faces. When the music plays, we must dance. It's in our Cuban DNA. We seriously can't help it. We spontaneously begin dancing with, and next to, and behind, and in front of whoever happens to be there. I so loved that.

Although many wore their tried and true Dodger Blue, many of us showed off the official shirt of Cuban Heritage Day 2014. Designed by the extremely talented Roly Vega of Habana Brand Clothing

I have it on good authority that these beautiful shirts (only $20!) are still available through the end of August. Please visit Habana Brand Clothing and place your order ASAP. 


It was a crazy-hot day in LA, but there were lots of fans (works on two levels) available to beat the heat provided by Café La Llave and a special one designed for the day by Habana Brand Clothing and our good friends from Wassup En LA. 


Part of the fun was wandering the stadium (in the shade, of course) and finding old friends, all of us flapping our fans to cool off in a modern version of what was probably a typical scene from Havana of the 50's. 


Rudolpho Zalez, Pritesh Shah, Carlos de la Vega of Wassup En LA?

Speaking of old friends, the first pitch was to be thrown out by Tony Plana, the very talented Cuban actor who played the dad on the hit TV show, Ugly Betty. Tony has had a distinguished and accomplished career. My favorite of his roles being "Jefe," from the comedy film, The Three Amigos, but that's not important right now.

It turns out that Tony's brother and I went to school together and I knew his family pretty well. "Tony, I'm Marta, from St. Augustine's..." I didn't get a chance to finish my sentence.


He grabbed me in a big Cuban hug of recognition. Made my day.


The Committee

It was my pleasure and privilege to serve on this year's Cuban Heritage Day Committee. What a delight it was to get to know the other Cubans involved in putting on this event and sharing our love of baseball and Cubanity (<--I'm pretty sure it's a word) with each other. I loved how everyone brought different skills and talents to the table. 

My friend, Lucy Vega, of Habana Brand Clothing, also brought red lipstick. I'm forever grateful. The beautiful blonde you see here is Rose Marin, head of the committee and the mastermind of this entire project. 


Lucy Vega, Marta Darby, Rose Marin celebrating red lipstick

The committee got to do a photo-op with Cuban Wonder Boy, Yasiel Puig. Or as our community refers to him, "Yasielito." 


I confess that I totally gave in to temptation and went in for the selfie. Guys... I had to.



I know. Shut up. 

Jonathan and Lucy (and friend, Nathan) happily partook of the Cuban Dogs. Picture a Dodger Dog, but with a Cuban sandwich twist to it: Ham, pork, swiss cheese, mustard, pickles. (For more on the awesomeness of Cuban sandwiches, see this post.)


Eric, who has been married to me for 22 years, held his own with all the Cubanity (<--I think it's a word now).


 To get all the info about next year's Cuban Heritage Day, please be sure to follow them on Facebook: Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium on Facebook.

It was a long, hot, wonderful day. The Dodgers eventually lost to the Brewers, but that didn't dampen our spirits. The day was a perfect celebration of all that is good and holy about Cuban baseball.

Here's a perfect recap by the talented and lovely, Ailis Garcia of Dodgers Nation

Pastelitos provided by Portos Bakery. Cafecitos provided by Café La Llave. First pitch and MY FAVORITE MOMENT provided by Tony Plana. Tshirts provided by Habana Brand Clothing. Fans provided by Wassup En LA? Dodger Baseball magic provided by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The rest of us? We brought the Cubanity. (<--word officially coined by me.)



photo credit: Lucy Vega


Cooking on a Budget - Pastelitos de Guayaba

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I have perfected the simplest recipe for making pastelitos de guayaba (Cuban guava pastries) at home.

Porto's, which is the closest Cuban bakery to us is still miles and miles and a half day's road trip away. So, when the craving for pastelitos hits, I just make my own. It happens a lot more often than I'd care to admit, but that's not important right now.

The pastelito recipe is in my cookbook, of course, which, if you don't already have it, you should get it, because you're being supportive and everything. (Was that the weirdest, clunkiest sentence ever? Yes, it totally was.)

Marta darby cookbook

Me and my cookbook. Photo Credit -

Anyway, my good friend, Carlos de la Vega who is one of the co-creators of the show "Wassup En LA?" and is a whiz with graphics and video has recently been a bit obsessed (in a good way) with making my pastelitos at home. 

My big fat cuban family cookbook

'Wassup En LA?' co-creators Rudopho Zalez and Carlos de la Vega crushing on their copies of "My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook."

So much so, that he has created a most awesome video sharing the ease and magic of how to make your own DIY pastelitos de guayaba a la Marta. Also, here's the recipe:

Marta's Homemade Pastelitos de Guayaba

Pastelitos de guayaba

This is the first in what promises to be a really fun cooking series, "Cooking on a Budget. How to make Pastelitos de Guayaba."

Cooking on a Budget Carlos de la Vega

Please notice my Naturally Curly Self at about the 1:18 mark. (Thanks for the shout out, Carlos!)

You didn't really believe homemade pastelitos were this impossibly easy, did you?

There's probably other things you don't know about Cuban Cooking. Don't worry. I'm here to help.

Click on the image for the link to My Big, Fat, Cuban Family Cookbook. Buen Provecho!

My big fat Cuban family cookbook

Wassup En La? Why you will love this sitcom...

Go and grab yourself a nice, hot cafecito and make yourself comfortable. This post is going to be long and newsy. I'm about to seriously dish about the new TV sitcom, Wassup En LA? with lots of details and tons of photos about the project. (This is why you love me, right?)

I promised you a few weeks ago that I would write about the making of Wassup En LA? in great detail. I have so much to share with you about why I think this show is going to be fantastic and why I believe it's going to be must-see TV, but let me back up a bit.

Rudolpho Zalez Marta Darby Carlos de la Vega
Here I am with Wassup En LA? creators, Rudolpho Zalez and Carlos de la Vega. At Porto's, of course.

The co-creators of Wassup, Rudolpho Zalez and Carlos de la Vega envisioned a good, old-fashioned TV sitcom. In their vision, they wanted to follow in the footsteps of old-school, family-themed TV classics, such as "I Love Lucy," "The Cosby Show, "Chico and the Man," and "¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.?"

Family friendly TV? Yes, please.

The premise is already hilarious:

Manolito Diaz has dreams of making it big as a Hollywood actor. His Cuban family is extremely supportive. In typical Cuban style, his mom and dad show their support by moving the family from Miami to Los Angeles to help their son reach his dream. They bring along his reluctant-to-leave-Miami sister and, of course the very deliciously Cuban abuelos.

Meet the fictional Diaz family:

Wassup en la diaz family

From left to right: Oscar Torre as Pepe Diaz, Jean Paul San Pedro as Manolito Diaz, Nicole Garcia as Teresita Diaz, Nelida Ponce as Eufemia Olga Diaz, Gerardo Riverón as Alfredo Figueroa Diaz, and Jezabel Montero as Rosa Maria Diaz.

As I understand it, the entire first season has already been written. The taping we attended on March 23rd involved the shooting of the pilot episode and also a few scenes from various key moments from the rest of the season.

So, for those of you asking where you can see it, there's no good answer for that....yet. The show is still in the works. The scenes that were filmed on the 23rd are still in the post-production phase. It's quite an exciting (and nerve-wracking) time for all involved.


You'll recall that the producers called and asked if I had any Cuban-looking props for the set. Of course, I was happy to oblige. My kids and I willingly drove up to L.A. to deliver the goods. (I'm willing to drive to any area code where a Porto's can be found. I know. Shut up.)

Much to our everlasting delight, we got to visit the studio where the live taping was going to happen.

Jonathan, Lucy, and I dropping off our Cuban props (Hey! That works on two levels!) at CML Studios.

We got to watch the beautiful set being built.

Building set

And we got to sit in on one of the rehearsals.

Wassup rehearsal
Director Rudolpho Zalez getting the perfect reaction from Jezabel Montero (Rosa Maria Diaz).

Let me stop right here and tell you about the cast.

The Cast

The first members of the cast that we met were Gerardo Riverón and Nelida Ponce, who play the abuelos, Alfredo and Eufemia. For me, it was love at first sight. Both accomplished actors, in their own right, they brought the "Cubaneo" from Miami to the Diaz dinner table. I love that even as they delivered lines in Spanish and Spanglish and broken English, they were always translated beautifully as part of the family dialogue, which is not easy to do.

Kudos to the writers for making them completely Cuban and perfectly accessible to the American audience. Or as we Cubans say, "Se la comieron."  Which translates literally to "They ate it." It's a Cuban idiom that means they fantastically exceeded all expectations. (See what I mean? Not easy.)

Wassup en la abuelos

Here's Nelida (Abuela) showing the next generation how it's done:

Wassup en la abuela does the salsa

Jezabel Montero (daughter of the iconic telenovela beauty, Zully Montero) plays Rosa Maria, the mom. She's an absolute joy to watch as she effortlessly portrays everyone's Cuban American mami. I'd like to interject here that she is a lovely, blond haired, blue-eyed beauty, which is so very typically Cuban (believe it). Smart, funny and oh, so approachable. She's exactly who you would want for a next door neighbor, co-worker, or best friend.

Wassup jezabel montero & oscar torre
MBFCF, meet the lovely and talented, Jezabel Montero and the fabulously versatile, Oscar Torre. That's me in the center of this look-at-all-this-Cuban-talent sandwich.

Oscar Torre plays Pepe Diaz. He is the quintessential Cuban dad. All Cuban perfection in his tone and delivery. The ideal blend of seriousness and tenderness. There's a particularly beautiful scene in which Pepe reminds his son, Manolito (Jean Paul San Pedro) what a family is truly all about. I may or may not have cried a little during that scene. (Also, please notice my Cuban souvenir mini-conga set on Manolito's dresser, but that's not important right now.)

Wassup en la oscar torre jean paul san pedro

"No family is perfect. But be thankful you have one that loves and supports you."

Nicole Garcia plays the smart-alecky sister, Teresita, who hates that they left their lives in Miami to help Manolito chase his dream. She plays the role with a perfect balance of snark and sweetness that's almost breathtaking. I know Teresita. She's all the Cuban friends I grew up with.

And, of course, the one who brings them all to L.A. as he chases his dreams of stardom, Manolito, expertly brought to you by Jean Paul San Pedro. Watch the following video and fall in love with Manolito.

You're totally pulling for him already, aren't you? I know.

The Taping

The taping went on for the entire day. We arrived around 1:00 PM for the 3:30 PM taping, which was sort of happening on "Cuban time" which was more like 4-ish.

Wassup en la

I expected to enjoy the show. Hello? A Cuban family. On TV. What's not to like? I often felt growing up, that our everyday family interactions were worthy of a sitcom. I think most of us who grew up Cuban felt that way. I think that's why many of you relate to me here on MBFCF, and why we Cubans all so passionately love ¿Que Pasa, USA? These are our people. Our stories. Our lives.

Seriously, I have to say it again: Se la comieron. (Just to review: "They ate it." In other words, they fantastically exceeded all expectations.)

Wassup en la audience

Both Eric and I were floored by what great chemistry the cast had with each other. Did I already mention that the entire cast consists of real Cuban Americans? (As God intended.) They were truly believable as a family. As a Cuban family.

My favorite moment of Cubanity (<--that should sooo be a word) happened as the family was gathered at the dinner table.

The director's cue was: "El Cubaneo. Go!"

The family starts talking all at once and over each other. Genius. That's dinner every night at our house, people. I know you know what I'm talking about.

Wassup en la pepe prays
Pepe, the dad prays before the meal. Mostly for patience on the 405. LOVE.

The script was beautifully written. The comedic timing of the actors dead on. The actors were there from 6:00 AM to almost 10:00 PM. And for every take they were both fresh and funny. Every. Time. Seriously.

I'd like to interject here that obviously the appeal to me, personally, was that the hilarity all takes place in a Cuban family. And while that was both familiar and priceless, let me reassure you, the family interactions are of the every day variety. Bickering was balanced by caring. Misunderstanding complemented by tenderness. The only difference being that they were a little bit louder. And they rolled their R's.

I want to know these people in my real life. Yeah. That, right there? Makes this sitcom a total winner in my book.

The shooting of the pilot took about 7 hours. We were entertained in between the hurry-up-and-waiting by live Cuban music, the awesome comedy of Fernando Duran and "snacks" from Porto's Bakery.

Porto's pastelitos
Pastelitos de carne. Pastelitos de guayaba. From Porto's Bakery. Amen.

The shooting of the pilot wrapped up around 9:00 PM and we stuck around to watch them film a few scenes from other episodes.

From the episode: "One quality plate is better than a buffet," Pepe gives Manolito and his friends dating guidelines. I must reiterate that Oscar Torre gives the perfect Cuban papi performance. He is the Cuban "Everyman."

Wassup en la friends
The best friends, Allen, played by Pritesh Shah, and Judd, played by Aaron Kuban.

The supporting cast of friends, Pritesh Shah, Aaron Kuban, and Keila Hamilton (as Teresita's friend, Tawana) were all superb as complementary characters to the Diaz family. (I think I'm running out of superlatives here.) Oh, how I wish this show were on the air already!

I encourage all of you, my friends, to support the effort to get this brilliant sitcom on TV. You can help in the following ways:

Go love them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube Channel (be prepared to get hooked on these characters). Share with your friends.  Get the word out. We need their kind of magic on TV.

The show is not only family-friendly, but beautifully written and the performances were all fantastic. So entertaining. So fun to watch. So positive and frankly, uplifting. Just like the shows I grew up watching and loving as a kid. I promise to keep you informed as soon as I know anything about where and when it can be seen.

Oscar Torre Marta Darby Jean Paul San Pedro
The fabulously talented Oscar Torre and Jean Paul San Pedro with a very star-struck and satisfied Cuban blogger.

Thank you, again, Rudolpho and Carlos and the beautiful cast and hard working crew for your tireless energy, perseverance, and faith to see this thing through. I'm waiting, rather impatiently, to see what happens next with Wassup En LA?

Because seriously, they ate it.

Wassup en la conga
When Cubans get together, salsa happens.