Earlier this year on my nearly thirtieth trip to Cuba, I took a needed break near the Cathedral Square in Old Havana to find some sombra (shade) underneath one of the stone archways of the surrounding museums and shops. Reading a magazine, decked out in traditional Santera dress (Priestess of Afro-Cuban religion Santeria), and smoking a cigar was Adelaida. Although I had taken pictures of and with many Cubans, I couldn’t resist getting such a colorful shot. I asked her name and if it would be ok to take her picture offering her my name and sharing that I had written a book about Cuba, Cubicle to Cuba.
This opened not only a photoshoot, but also a conversation full of witty comments and life advice. Little did I know that I would be sitting down for a life lesson with Adelaida (aka la Senora de Habana-Havana’s Lady). After sharing with me that she was not only a mother of eight, but a grandmother to eighteen, and a great-grandmother of eight, she asked, "Quieres saber como lo hiciste?" (Do you wanna know how I did it). I said, "Claro." (Of course.) She continued with her receta para una vida larga y feliz (recipe for a long and happy life)
Adelaida’s Recipe for a Long and Happy Life
- 5 tobacco a day
- Plenty of rum
- A lot of Cuban coffee
- Eat well
- Run at least once a week on the Malecon
- Dance daily
- Make love mucho (FYI: She added that her current husband is 47 years old!)
It is has been many months since I first spoke to Adelaida, but I know I will see her again in Old Havana in the shade outside of the Cathedral. I’m grateful for the not only the recipe she gave me, but also a lesson in what brings people and cultures together. In essence, Adelaida answered for me, “What is the shortest distance between two people or cultures?” Although some would say it could be a smile as said Victor Borge, I can attest it is a conversation with some good laughs.
I’d love to hear about your favorite conversations from around the world or even right in your backyard. Please share yours in the comments.
As always, here’s to looking up!
**BTW, if you are looking for holiday gifts for someone special, check out these t-shirts inspired by my books.