You Know You're Cuban if...

You Know You're Cuban if...

My husband, Eric and I went to a party the other night with some Cuban friends. There was a live Cuban band and lots of dancing and wonderful food. There were friends I hadn't seen for a while and so there was lots of hugging and kissing and gesticulating and talking. Loudly, of course. And the music! Well, I just had to move, you know?

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The Dodgers and The Cubanity

Disclaimer: This post contains an inordinate amount of selfie-type photos of me. Forgive me. I was so over-the-top excited about this night and being where I was and meeting who I met. It's a Cuban thing.

Imagine a stadium full of Cubans, all noisy and celebrating and munching on Dodger dogs. 


Picture them stopping to do the mandatory Cuban kiss thing.  "Oye! Hace tiempo!" Picture them talking loudly and laughing and sharing pastelitos de guayaba right there in the stands. 


Picture them dancing wildly when the Dodgers score.


Well, technically, they were already dancing, because Cubans, but that's not important right now.

Those were the sights and sounds of Cuba Night at Dodger Stadium on Monday, May 11th. 

As part of the Cuban Heritage Committee it was my great honor to help organize this fun event and work hand in hand with the Dodgers.

We were asked to "Please arrive at least an hour before the 7:10 game time."


Cuban Heritage Committee members -Frank Navarro, Rose Marin, Alina Bacallao, Betty Porto, Maylen Calienes, Marta Darby, Marislay Cedeño, Lucy Vega, Roland Vega

 These instructions seem simple enough, but I live over an hour south of LA, two if there's traffic, which means we had to leave a few hours before. Which meant that if I hoped to arrive at 6pm, we had to leave at 4pm.

Miraculously we did not encounter much traffic at all and flew up to Dodger Stadium in record time. and arrived before they were even letting people in. (Win!)

Amy and Jonathan drove with me while Lucy and boyfriend, Marc took the train. My sister, Alina would just meet us all there.



Things that are cool about entering Dodger Stadium via the Club Entrance:

1) That's where all the retired jerseys live. Of course, you recognize #42, the incomparable Jackie Robinson. How cool is that?


2) That's where real-life-Dodger-legends enter the stadium. Like legendary Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda. I went full Fangirl on poor unsuspecting Tommy. Because...hello! Tommy Lasorda!


3) The First Pitch Thrower Outers also come in the Club Entrance. And because it was Cuban night, the first pitch for the event was thrown out by our own local Cuban legend, Mr. Andy Garcia. You will obviously understand the crazed Look-How-Close-I-Am-to-Andy-Garcia look on my face. 


The game hadn't even started and I was already crazy-happy. But then, the Dodgers were going to introduce some of us on the Cuban Heritage Committee, which meant we got to ACTUALLY BE DOWN ON THE FIELD. Somebody pinch me.


So, I'm all nutty and excited while our "handler" and Dodger PR liaison, Sammy is trying to get us all in formation for a very public introduction. And we're all "Guys! Oye! We're on the field! How accidentally cool is this?" and we're all taking selfies and being all distracted and being Cuban and waving at everyone. 

And poor Sammy was mildly frustrated with us in a "this is like herding cats" way. But, no. It was like very much "herding Cubans" which comes with its own set of frustrations, but that's not important right now, either.

We finally get introduced while standing on the field in complete awe of the moment. Here's the video to prove that it happened.

My kids took a photo of me on the Jumbotron. And I thought, "It just doesn't get any better than this!"


But it did!

The game itself was a little slow in the beginning, but trust me, it sooo got better.

By the 7th inning stretch the Dodgers were losing, but of course we were in full This-is-just-a-big-Cuban-party mode. Our friends at Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium captured all the awesome Cubanity as we stretched and sang along with Roly and Lucy Vega from Habana Brand Clothing

And then it was time for the Dance Cam Salsa. Of course we all got up and danced. Hello! Cubans!
Suddenly Lucy and Marc and Jon were up there dancing on the Jumbotron. 
Happiest. Night. Ever.
I know this has been all about us, but what about the Dodgers? Well, in the bottom of the 9th, Dodger Scott Van Slyke hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 5-3 victory over the Miami Marlins. 
Pandemonium ensued. 
Crazy-happy-super-noisy-Cuban-WE-WON-in-the-last-play-of-the-game pandemonium. On Cuba Night. 
Oh, the Cubanity! 
Our next event will be Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium on Sunday, July 12th, 2015. Please follow Cuban Heritage Day on Facebook for news and updates.
It's not too soon to order your beautiful Dodger Blue Cuban shirts. from Habana Brand Clothing. Tickets will go one sale soon, so watch for those. Go Blue!
Cuban heritage day tshirts

The Son of a Bartender and a Maid

A few months ago I was invited to an intimate lunch reception at Gaviña and Sons Coffee Roasters. As you well know, I never turn down an opportunity to visit them as it's always a wonderful time, so I went. 

The guest of honor was none other than Senator Marco Rubio. He was in town trying to make a Big Decision and was wanting to connect with the Cuban community here. 

Again, it was a relatively small group (as these things go) and we waited patiently for his arrival, made easier by the generous donation of Cuban pastries by Gigi's Bakery, but that's not important right now.


The Senator came in and asked not to be videotaped as he was just talking with us "entre familia." (As family.)


And he spoke to us from his heart. 

He answered every single question thoughtfully and not at all like you would imagine a politician would. He was genuinely wrestling with big questions, big policies, big problems and said so. He didn't know for sure at the time, but was considering a presidential run. 

His family was the biggest factor in this decision. 

He spoke in both English and Spanish as many of us Cuban Americans do in our own homes and with our people. I just loved that.

Picture a group of loud, enthusiastic, opinionated Cubans asking tough questions and pushing for serious answers. I was more impressed than ever that the Senator held his own with us.

And when he was finished, he stopped and smiled and took a moment and a photo with every single person in attendance. I was super impressed by this. Of course, we all loved every minute of it.


The lunch was catered by a local Cuban restaurant (of course) and it was right at the moment I sat down to eat and catch my breath and Senator Rubio was behind me getting his food that I thought, "A Cuban-American may actually be President of the United States one day."


And then the tears began. 

He sat down at our table and I was too overcome to even speak. Here was a wonderful embodiment of the fruit of the sacrifices of our Cuban parents. They came here to America to find a better life and hopefully give their children more opportunities. 

Also, how crazy is it that at the very moment that HE SAT DOWN AT OUR TABLE that I was overwhelmed and weepy and unable to speak. *sigh*


All of this hit home yesterday as Senator Rubio made his announcement that he would indeed seek the GOP nomination for President of the United States. 

Here's a two minute recap from Bloomberg. 

Let me be perfectly clear: I have no crystal ball or way to predict what will happen over the next 18 months, but I'm super happy and proud that so far there are 3 GOP contenders for the Republican nomination and two are of Cuban descent. 

Of course, that's not a reason to vote for anyone. My point in taking the time to write about this today is that it's a big deal for those of us whose families came here fleeing tyranny and hoping for a better tomorrow. Here's one of our own chasing the biggest office in the land. Go, Marco, go! 

From his speech yesterday:

"I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those that come from power and privilege." ~Marco Rubio


I'm also super delighted that I got to be present as history was being made when the Senator spoke to us from his heart about his vision and his profound belief that America is indeed an exceptional country. It's been way too long since we've heard that articulated from the seats of power in this land.

It's a proud and wonderful moment and I'm going to swim around in it until my fingers get all pruney. 

As the daughter of a Cuban engineer and a housewife who came here looking for a new life, I too have dreams for a wonderful future for my own family.


Also, the Senator takes a great selfie. 

Please visit the Senator's website to get involved in this historic campaign.

I'm not looking for a debate here. I'm just telling my own stories. Please be kind.

Why Are Cubans So Special?

That was the headline of a recent article in the New York Times. 

Why are cubans special

A dear Cuban friend texted me that headline and asked, "Why are we so special?"

I don't think she was really trying to start a political conversation because she knows me so well, but that's not important right now.

I responded with, "Because we can dance and have great butts."

And that's how the crazy began...

I decided to have some fun with this today. (Thank you, Carrie for sharing your Cubanity with me.)

Here are 10 ways Cubans are special:

1) We can make great flan.

2) We know how to curse colorfully.

3) We can fix anything with duct tape.


4) We know the secret healing powers of Vicks VapoRub.

Vicks Vapo

5) We make beautiful babies that smell of violets.


6) We have sexy hair.

7) We smell really good.

8) Our full-of-sh*tness is endearing.

9) Everyone we meet is a friend.

10) Our abuelas are amazing characters.

Now it's your turn.

Why are we Cubans so special?

(Note: If you start going political, I will assume you have no sense of humor and I will be forced to delete your comment. Ya tu sabes.)

Finding Her Place

Have you ever seen those photos that people take of their kids in the exact same spot or with the exact same toy over lots of years? It's a wonderful way to mark the passage of time and show the child's growth and how they've changed and grown.

You know I'm a big fan of then and now photos. I think they make me much more appreciative of the good times we've had, while also helping me be "in the moment."

We have a tradition that we do every year where we take a vacation week down in Del Mar, California and go surfing (well, my husband and kids do the actual surfing while I sit on the beach and document the magic, but that's not important right now). 

We usually take the week that Lucy celebrates her birthday and Eric and I celebrate our anniversary. It was 5 years ago that the Photo Tradition began outside of Filippi's Pizza Grotto in San Diego's Little Italy

Fillipi's is a mom-and-pop-family-style restaurant where there are no reservations and you enter through a funky, genuine Italian market to get to the back of the store where you find a full service restaurant with the requisite chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling. The food is always good and the ambiance great. The line usually runs out the door and down the street. Yes, it's that good. 

So we usually find ourselves queuing up as we kill time during our wait. Five years ago, on August 11, 2010, my 17 year old girl sat down and I shot this photo.


Thus began a tradition of celebrating this girl's birthday with a visit to Little Italy and taking The Photo.

August 11, 2011. She had graduated from high school before the summer began, dyed her hair red and cut it all off. 


August 11, 2012. She's 19 years old and testing out some blond highlights. 


August 11, 2013. Is it possible that she is already 20 years old? Also, notice how fast her hair grows! The food at Fillipi's is still consistently good. My girl is consistently changing.



A few months ago, on August 11, 2014, we were back at our favorite Italian restaurant, celebrating yet another Lucy Birthday. A Milestone. People, my daughter is now 21 years old. 

As you can see, the photo is taken from a wider view. You can see many more details as you move further back. While it appears to be the same, there's so much more to the picture.


So it is with this girl's life.

She turned 21 and has been working hard to "get a life." She works at a few creative (but, happily, very well paying) jobs and has saved enough and planned well enough to move out on her own. 

My family celebrated this milestone by throwing a "Castaway" Party. As in, "if you have any castaways, Lucy can sure use some stuff for her new apartment." 

The Cubans came through because "any excuse for a party." Duh.


They gave her lamps and dishes and towels and tape. Like a shower, but not. It was quite fantastic. 

And now, Lucy is settling in, not far from us, into a place of her own. She did this in today's economy, without a roommate (we're really proud of her for managing that). She knows who she is and what she wants. And it's kind of fun watching as she gets her life together. 

I'm so pleased with the person she's becoming. Of course, I know I'm so not the typical Cuban mother. I'm working hard on my end to give her "space and grace." If I freak out a little (and of course, I do), I keep those emotions confined to the pages of my journal or to the quiet conversations I have with Eric. 

Because truly, my job here is pretty much done. This is her time.


So, I'm feeling all confident and sad and happy and scared as the moving van pulls away. 


Lucy's cat saying goodbye.

She quickly sends me a photo showing me she's settling in to her new place.


That's my girl. She's going to be ok.

Cubamerican the Movie on DVD - Winners

I know that all of us Cubans who left our homeland because of the communist revolution have a story. Many of the stories sound pretty much the same, but of course, the details are slightly different and oh-so-very personal.

As I read over your comments on the last post, I could almost tangibly feel the pain and loss of each individual. 

It doesn't escape my notice that every single one of you remembers the exact date of your departure from Cuba. Some wounds never quite completely heal. 

Here are the stories I've collected so far: Cuando Sali de Cuba - stories of courage and hope. 

Cuando sali de Cuba

However, the gift of the film Cubamerican is that the stories that are told are of both loss and triumph. Having arrived here not knowing the customs or the language, we Cubans managed not just to survive, but to thrive. All the stories are fascinating and beautiful and resound with gratitude to this amazing nation that opened its arms to us exiles. It's a beautiful thing.


I have chosen 2 winners for the newly released DVD, Cubamerican. Here's how I choose: 

  1. I take the number of entries and plug that number into the True Random Number Generator at
  2. I count the entries until I reach the number that appears.
  3. I take a screen shot of the winner's answer and post it here.

The winners of the Cubamerican DVDs are:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.15.20 AM


Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.15.44 AM



Please send me an email with HEY, MARTA! I WON STUFF ON YOUR BLOG! in the subject line. Include your mailing address and we will ship the DVD to you ASAP.

Thanks to all of you who entered this giveaway for sharing your stories with me. I will be doing another in the coming days.

If you haven't already purchased one, I still think you need to own a copy of this fabulous documentary. Here's the link: Cubamerican DVD

I'm extremely grateful to the generous folks at Cubamerican for making all of this possible.

Cubamerican the Movie on DVD - Giveaway

I so love celebrating Cuban (!) Hispanic Heritage Month with you guys because...

  • Our stories need to be told.
  • Cubans are amazing people.

Speaking of great "Cuando sali de Cuba" stories, I know many of you have already seen the documentary, Cubamerican. If you haven't yet, you will be amazed at how beautifully and poignantly it depicts the struggles and triumphs of Cubans who were exiled here and eventually made America their home. Get a copy! STAT!

Here's a list of the highly accomplished Cubans who were interviewed for the film. 

  • Carlos Eire
  • Lorena Feijóo
  • Pedro José Greer, Jr.
  • Mirta Ojito
  • Andy Garcia (be still my foolish heart)
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba
  • Pedro A. Sanchez
  • Achy Obejas
  • Orlando Diaz-Azcuy
  • Felix S. Sabates, Jr.
  • Alvaro de Molina
  • Tony Pérez
  • Gustavo Pérez-Firmat (friend and lover of the MBFCF cookbook)
  • José Orlando Padron
  • Steven Bauer
  • Raoul G. Cantero III
  • Roberto González Echevarría
  • Eduardo J. Padrón
  • Jorge Pardo
  • Lorna Feijóo
  • Francisco "Pipin" Ferreras

The fabulous news is that this gorgeous film is now available on DVD.

The 2nd piece of fabulous news is that I have a couple of copies to give away today, plus a promotion you will totally be excited about. 

The 3rd piece of fabulous news is that I received the very first copy of the DVD as a gift from Director, Jose Enrique Pardo and Producer, Daniel Bellas. Okay, that's not truly fabulous news, it just makes me feel sooo accidentally cool. (But that's not important right now.)


First of all, I'm giving away, not one, but two (2) copies of the Cubamerican DVD. 

To enter this drawing for a chance to win a DVD of the documentary, Cubamerican, please leave a comment on this post and tell me:

  • When did you arrive here in the U.S. 
  • Where was your first stop?

My answer: February 14, 1961. Miami, Florida.

Please leave your comment on this post and I'll choose TWO winners on Monday, September 22nd, 2014 at 11 am PST. 

The 2nd piece of fabulous news is for those of you who just don't want to wait (I know how you guys get), the generous folks at Cubamerican have a BOGO* offer for the first ten buyers. (*Buy One. Get One.)

The first 10 people to buy a Cubamerican DVD and put MBFCF after their name, will win an additional DVD. Here's the link: Cubamerican DVD.

Also, I think every Cuban should own and share this film. It tells our stories so beautifully. A very important reminder: Don't forget the tissues!

Cuando Sali de Cuba - Stories of Courage and Hope

Cuando sali

My family moved to the U.S. reluctantly. 

When we left Cuba, we didn't know we were coming here for good. I think that's a part of our story as Cuban refugees that doesn't get much play. 

When we left our beloved homeland, we (when I say "we," I mean, my parents) thought it was only a temporary stay until that whole pesky revolution thing blew over. Obviously, it has not. 

The Verdes sisters circa 1961

The Verdés Sisters, circa 1961. Our 1st photo here in the U.S.

We began our life here in the U.S. based on the premise that it was going to be sort of a long vacation. Then we began calling it exile. Then there came a point when we knew for certain that there was no going back. 

It's Hispanic Heritage Month. From the 15th of September to the 15th of October, we, here in the U.S. celebrate the contributions of Hispanics to the fabric and culture of America.

For the past few years, here on my blog, I have celebrated the stories of Cuban families who came here and built beautiful lives as proud Americans. I call that series, "Cuando Sali de Cuba - stories of courage and hope."

Here's a link to all of the stories. Cuando Sali de Cuba.

Here's a video of my family in Cuba "back in the day" and in the here and now. Set to the beautiful song by Celia Cruz that inspired this series. The lyrics are especially poignant to me as well as to most Cuban refugees. 

That's right: Refugees. Not Immigrants.

Cuando salí de Cuba
dejé mi vida, dejé mi amor
Cuando salí de Cuba
dejé enterrado mi corazón.


When I left Cuba
I left behind my life, I left behind my love
When I left Cuba
I left my heart forever buried in the ground.

That just about sums it up. 

Congratulations, Miami. Here Comes Cubamerican!

I'm so happy to announce that Cubamerican the Movie, that has been a huge hit with Cuban audiences all over the country is now coming to Miami TV. I'm proud and very excited to share the details with you. I've been gushing about this film since the first time I saw it, but that's not important right now.


To all my Miami friends, you won't want to miss this! 
The Miami TV premier for the Cubamerican movie is tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 4th, 2014 at 8pm on WPBT2. 

Here is the link to director Jose Enrique Pardo's interview on the Maria Elvira Salazar show on Mira TV. He comes on at the 39:56 mark.


Note the time and station and set your DVR's. It's time to make history, people! (Get tissues.)
Also, you're welcome. 

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