Cuba and the US – The Musical

The relationship among the US and Cuba is in its course to full improvement and complete restoration. Today the US flag flies again on the Cuban sky, at the same time John Kerry, Secretary of State, arrives to Cuba to reopen their diplomatic representation in the island.

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John Kerry greets the islanders with a message of optimism and solidarity, with a very promising statement given to Univision recently: “More people will travel. There will be more exchange. More families will be reconnected. And hopefully, the government of Cuba will itself make decisions that will begin to change things.”

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“Cuba Libre? Yes please”

Must be said that this moment was certainly led by plenty of good will meetings, most of them arranged by the Vatican, specifically the Pope, Francis 1st.

As the bilateral relations settle, the investors will find their way into Cuba, and plenty of economist and financial analyst outline the fertile land ahead for entrepreneurs, but I can´t help to wonder that we are in front of two different Cubas. One, befriending the US (and all what is involved with the US abroad), and another where Fidel is seen with Maduro and Evo Morales, hanging out, unaware that the “empire” has reopened its franchise right in the heart of Cuba.

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As for the island, Cuba will have to reconfigure not only its immigration and economic borders, but its political doors as well. It is well known that the Cuban community living in Florida can’t wait to reclaim what is theirs, and are willing to expand and strengthen their sphere of influence into the island, waiting for the Castro family to weaken.

About Guantanamo Bay, well, the Pope had to be a hell of a negotiator to leave that topic pretty much untouched and barely addressed by the Cubans.

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As Huffington Post recently summed up: 

  • Cuba wants the United States to end its economic embargo of the island, return the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba and halt radio and television signals beamed into Cuba.
  • The Americans will press Cuba on human rights, the return of fugitives granted asylum and the claims of Americans whose property was nationalized by Fidel Castro’s government.

Overall, this is indeed a historic moment and, as a Mexican columnist wrote today, the “most democratic” country in the world restoring its diplomatic ties with the longest dictatorship in The Americas can´t go unnoticed.

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I’ll be going to Cuba this year, late November, with some awesome New Zealand friends, can´t wait to see how this event has evolved. Yet again, as an international relationships and human rights graduate, this is the “What if” that they used to teach us at university, now we are witnessing it.

Which I'm sure these lads never imagined their revolution would lead to this.

I’m sure these lads never imagined their revolution would lead to this.

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Paella by Mexicans

As part of many things The Americas inherited from the Spanish settlers, I reckon, the most important one was new ingredients and cooking techniques. Not only we got some great Spanish recipes, but this “Mestizaje” resulted in new and thrilling cooking methods, the incorporation of exotic ingredients, flavours and textures. The The Latin American cuisine was born as a rich, exuberant,and voluptuous (I always wanted to use to that word to describe food, far out!) pallet of flavours and emotions.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

It was actually rougher than this. A very bloody and violent cultural assimilation.

… Anyway, so, a few days ago, we decided not to go for the traditional Mexican dish, nor a North American craving (remember, we are from the north, close to the border with the US and A, so, aye, we love HEB and Texan massive portions), instead we went for freaking Spanish food.

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Why Spanish? Well, I’ve recently bought a “Paellera”, which is a special pan for paella, as shown bellow:

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I got the rice and the spices, then my youngest sis and I headed to the “San Juan” Market, which, I reckon, needs a post of its own, as it is an impressive place full of the most exotic ingredients, meats, veggies and a wide high quality charcuterie stands.

Colours... edible colours ...

Colours… edible colours …

Among other things we needed for the paella, we also went there to get the seafood, as northeast Mexicans from the Gulf of Mexico we do value fresh, high quality seafood. So, let’s get started, shall we?

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Utensils:

  • A 30 cms paellera
  • Cooking tongs
  • 1 medium size pot (for a 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock)
  • 1 wooden spoon
  • White piece of cloth

Ingredients (usually for a 4 to 6 people paella):

  • 600 grams of rice (preferable the “bomba” or “calasparra” variety)
  • 300 grams of chicken meat (I used chicken thighs, deboned)
  • 200 grams of pork in cubes (I recommend pork chops, deboned and leave some fat, always leave the fat)
  • 300 grams of large shrimps, skin and head on
  • 200 grams of white clams
  • 200 grams of squids (ask your vendor to clean them up before weighting them)
  • 100 grams of fried chopped tomatoes (I used two, and worked great)
  • 50 grams of sliced Spanish chorizo
  • 1 tsp of sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp of saffron
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • ½ chopped onion
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 to 2 litres of chicken stock

Now what?

First, turn on the heat to meadium, on the paellera pour some olive oil (2 to 3 spoons are fine), level the paellera, you want to cook rice evenly, always. Next, throw in the pork and the chicken, you want to brown the outside of these meats before moving to the steaming process needed for the rice. Add the chorizo, the onions and the garlic, then the tomatoes, and the rest of the spices (saffron, paprika, oregano, pinch of salt and pepper).

Bomba-Rice

All set? Awesome, now, the secret of a great paella rests in the stock you use. Please, put as much love to make the stock as you do to prepare this paella. Oh well, screw it, you can buy chicken stock too, so anyway, where was I? Aye, put a good amount of large spoons of the stock in the paellera. As soon as the stock touches the hot pan your kitchen will be filled with amazing aromas, sounds and excitement (not the same sort of excitement we all felt while watching the first trailer of the upcoming Star Wars movie, but pretty close). Cover just half of the paellaera with the stock, let it boil.

Is it boiling now? Add the rice, distribute it nicely along the paellera, use your wooden spoon and distribute the hell of that rice, oh yeah, distribute it good… you are loving it aren’t you? Now pour more stock in it until you entirely cover the rice, lower the flame, and let it cook. Regarding the saffron, some put it while they stir-fry the meat, whilst others add it right after covering the rice with the stock. I used the first technique.

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Ok, so your rice is cooking, your stock is simmering, you’ve poured yourself a good glass of Tempranillo (because cooking and drinking is always mandatory), now, what’s left? Oh right, the seafood! Start arranging the shrimp, squid and clams in the paellera. Gently push the ingredients into the rice, they’ll cook fast, that’s the reason we didn’t cook them with the meat at the beginning. Pour a little bit more of that stock, you don’t want to burn your rice (unless you like socarrat, which is super delicious).

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At the last phase, when you notice the rice is almost ready, the seafood cooked (just check if the shrimps turn into that lovely pink colour) turn off the heat and cover the paella with that white piece of cloth you were wondering why I listed it in this recipe. Let it rest for good 15 minutes, it helps to settle and finishing cooking the rice.

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There you go, now take some nice pics, upload them to Instagram, use a nice filter, and share it with the rest of the world.

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Ps. Did you get the chance to watch the Republican debate yesterday? I didn´t, but it seems that Trump is doing his best to keep on surprising us. He is a jerk, but really popular, the lad might have a chance to compete against Hillary for the US presidency.

Ps2. Veracruz, that Mexican state in the shape of a wrinkled banana, by the Gulf of Mexico is now the one most dangerous places on earth for journalists. Javier Duarte, governor of that state, during an event with journalists warned them that the authorities knew which one of them were hanging out with the bad guys. Last Friday, Ruben Espinosa, photographer, allegedly threaten by Duarte’s administration, was found murdered in Mexico City. “Espinosa was the 13th journalist working in Veracruz to be killed since Governor Javier Duarte from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) came to power in 2011.” published The Guardian, regarding this event. Shame on you, Duarte.