Life Advice from a 75-Year old Spitfire in Havana Cuba

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 gifts for someone special, check out these t-shirts inspired by my books.

14 Responses

  1. What an amazing lady! I will be visiting Cuba in a few weeks and will have to look for here in Old Havana. Oh and her life tips are right up my alley! :D
    • Heidi Siefkas
      Before you go, please check out my book Cubicle to Cuba. It's available even in audio for your flight down to Cuba.
  2. Oh my goodness! Her life advice is FABULOUS!!! Except for the smoking, I'd say she is pretty spot on! ;-)
    • Heidi Siefkas
      She is FAB!
  3. Wonderful life advice. Run every day? Wow, that is serious!
    • Heidi Siefkas
      I think running was once a week. Poco a poco!
  4. Zach
    Personally, I don't think I could sustain her lifestyle, but more power to her! Looks like you two had a lot of interesting and fun things to discuss, I dig the Victor Borge quote.
    • Heidi Siefkas
      One of the most memorable conversations I've had this year. She and I could get into some real trouble together. Here's to looking up!
  5. Those Cubans sure can be horny! Go get em, Adelaida.
    • Heidi Siefkas
      She would love that you said that!
  6. The Intrepid Fox
    I may be 12 years older than her husband, but I certainly wouldn't want to kiss that old girl...cough! cough!. lol
    • Heidi Siefkas
      You may be missing out cause I bet she could teach you a thing or two.
  7. I love this lady! I'm not much of a cigar smoker but I could happily follow her coffee and rum advice, lol...
  8. What a beautiful experience. So much wisdom and character. I am a photographer and I would have been absolutely thrilled to have captured her.

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