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La Casa Cubana


Lest you think that all I do in Cuba is sit on the beach and drink pina coladas, well the truth is that I do. See I lived there from 1988 to 1991 while I was a child, and I could not imagine a more perfect place to grow up. My father was working there on an oil pipeline at the time, and I was partially homeschooled, partially attended a local school and in general ran totally wild. My parents allowed us to have the kind of childhood that is now spoken of nostalgically with fast bike rides all over town, climbing crumbling buildings to build a fort on the roof, midnight stealth missions to the beach to see if we can spot a manta ray, and hours and hours outside unsupervised, playing, coming in only to eat supper and do chores.

But eventually that part of life ended, my parents emigrated to Canada and life went on in a different direction. I didn’t return to Cuba until I was seventeen on my first real solo vacation and I fell in love all over again. Spanish tried to return to my brain with mild success, the people were how I remembered them, and our old hotel where we lived was much smaller than I remembered it, as anyone who has ever returned to childhood stomping grounds can attest to.  I have since been back a half dozen times, often with family who love Cuba as much as I do. We generally fly all inclusive because no one wants to be a burdensome house guest twice a year, and also because plane tickets alone cost almost as much as a hotel stay. The town where we lived, Matanzas, is quite close to Varadero so it’s easier to visit with friends.         

One of the things I love when traveling is seeing how people live in other countries. It’s always a deep thrill for me to step outside the same-ness of a hotel room and visit someone’s house. If that visit includes a home cooked meal all the better. In that spirit I wanted to give you a glimpse into the house of our friends in Matanzas.  Theirs is a rather wealthy house by Cuban standards, they are a mixed couple with Domingo being a native Cuban, a former military officer and a journalist, and Oksana hailing from the Ukraine. They met when he was overseas in university and returned to Cuba to make a life. Since she still has plenty of family in Lviv, they are financially much more secure than she would have been otherwise. 

So without further ado, here is a tour of house on an island just off Florida.


The streets of Matanzas



 Socialist slogans are everywhere


A neighbors’ motorcycle


The house from the outside


A happy puppy playing with my uncle


A tiny garden in the front of the house – bonus poins if you recognize any of the plants


The inner courtyard


Milk cooling on the steps


Rooftop veranda


Mango tree laden with unripe fruit



An outdoor prep kitchen (behind the blue tarp in the photo above). Notice almost everything is homemade – shelves, doors.


Tiny ‘apple’ bananas – the flavor is out of this world


An inside patio at the back of the house



The living room


The small but well used kitchen. All the appliances are miniature versions of North American. The stove is about half as large as our standard one, and the fridge is tiny also. Perhaps New York Apartment dwellers would find it familiar.


The spread – amazing – green salad, arroz con frijoles, lobster, yucca root and more.




If you also find homes fascinating, share the neat features of dwellings you’ve seen and what made them memorable.  I for one, adore the intermixing of the outdoors that is evident in many Cuban homes. The climate allows for a minimum of walls the ease with which indoors and outdoors intermingle is wonderful to me, since I live in a climate where protection from the elements is paramount and where an open patio door in the summer is as close as we get. I also love the way the mango tree grows right outside the kitchen door and as the house was expanded (the outdoor kitchen was added well after the main structure was built), the house simply wrapped itself around it allowing it to grow and fruit. It’s like a reverse treehouse and the kid in me thrills at the possibilities.

10 comments to La Casa Cubana

  • Thanks for the pics. That spread looks delicious!

  • JeannieG

    Oh my! Thank you so much for sharing that! Indeed, that is an extreme highlight for me too to peek behind the walls and see how “real” people live wherever I travel. I have had the pleasure of being in homes in Holland, China, Thailand, France, Ireland and England. I’ll have to share about them when I have a bit more time.


  • admin

    @tornwordo – anytime my friend, and that spread was fantastic.

    @JeanneG – You lucky duck! Ummm… GUEST POST? 🙂 I’d also love to hear/see more about that sanctuary couple you just met in Mexico.

  • So different from Calgary.

    I’ve never heard of apple bananas before. What do they taste like?

  • admin

    Indeed. Apple bananas are very fragrant for starters, with very creamy texture. They taste like bananas of course, but have a flavor that seems to combine apples and strawberries in it. They are delicious!

  • Those are such great photos; I felt like I was there in Cuba 🙂 I have been to the country, but that was about 20 years ago. I don’t remember everything, but I do remember the beaches; the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Crystal clear with white sand that your feet dig right into. I’d like to go back with my husband (he’s never been there) as soon as we are able to. The sooner, the better! Thanks for sharing so many lovely photos.

  • admin

    @WR – oh go for sure! The best prices are in the fall, so if I were you I’d shoot for an October trip – weather still gorgeous, but prices are dropping. I wonder how your memories of 20 years ago would compare with now – they are a much poorer nation now and the embargo needs to end.

  • Fantastic post, content, photos! This was like a trip into their tropics and I was walking through homes, breezeways….Beautiful ‘down home’ comfort you captured.

  • admin

    Thanks! Hopefully you can visit for real in the next few years. The embargo can’t last forever, and it’s an amazing place to see.

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