A Life in Travel

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A Runaway Slave Lunch in Cuba


When Jan Bower wrote in her trip evaluation that the "Runaway Slave Lunch" was a highlight of her Wildland Adventure to Cuba, we had to find out more. What Runaway Slave Lunch, we asked? Cuba is all about surprises, about the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of Cubans, and their longing to reach out and connect with travelers passing through their neighborhood. Turns out, Jan's lunch was exactly that, organized directly by our Cuban guide, Maria Rosa, and served up by a wonderful Cuban woman living on the side of the road. 

Under a ceiba tree by the side of the road about one hour from the Havana airport, Omaida Scott greets Wildland travelers from time to time in the patio of her shaded house. When Maria Rosa asked Senora Scott if she would like to prepare lunch for our passing travelers, "Mayi," as Maria Rosa affectionately calls her, readily agreed. But Mayi saw more than green. Like so many entrepreneurial Cubans working in community tourism, Mayi greeted this new business opportunity to serve more than a meal. Like an homage to the movie, Like Water for Chocolate, having lunch with Mayi under her ceiba tree is as much about discovering her rich Afro-Cuban heritage as it is a genuine connection of the heart.  

Mayi serves up a slave lunch to guide, Maria Rosa, and driver. A new favorite stop with Wildland travelers.

According to Jan, a 4-time Wildland traveler, there's no menu here because like runaway slaves, Mayi serves whatever is available in season. And that's the idea. You go. you eat. And you discover something about black history in Cuba in her free-spirited garden patio: a sense of life as a runaway slave foraging and growing what you could to get by. 

 Jan recounts their experience.

"It's small, we were the only ones there and there is no menu. We ate the meal out of dried gourds (there was cutlery). The best was the soup, a nice potato, ham, pepper, onion mixture. She served greens, polenta, some kind of fish, mashed plantains, a white root vegetable, green beans with okra and a beautiful plate of sliced tomatoes. For dessert she served a cake made of corn, sweet potato, and coconut, then I guess it was wrapped in banana leaves and cooked over coals. She also served a type of stewed oranges, sort of sweet. I put mine over the cake, it was really good! To drink there was some ginger wine liqueur, which she made and it was delicious."

Maria Rosa helped Mayi birth her business by bringing our travelers there. "Mayi researched the foods that runaway slaves had access to and created her own menu blended with some of her handed down family recipes. I met her thanks to a common friend who gave me her number. One day I called her to see if she could cook for me and if it would be a good experience for our guests. We spent like 4 or 5 hours there. She has a great smile. She is talkative and friendly. This is the side of Cuba I love to share with our travelers!"

Mayi sents the tables for her Wildland guests.
Her patio is full of elements of African religion like a small bohio with a boveda inside (a table with transparent glasses with water to give light to the spirits).
Mayi's place now has a name she calls, Mi Montaña y Yo (My Mountain and I), designed to promote local farmers` traditions and her family heritage as a descendant of African slavery. She created it to pass down teachings and recipes, knowledge of plants, and to tell the story of her ancestors in Cuba.

Ready to travel to Cuba and meet Mayi, or any other of many local Cubans we support on our "Support The Cuban People" custom Wildland Adventures in Cuba? Ask our Cuba Program Director, Grettel Calderon, at 1-800-345-4453 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and see what we have to offer for our Wildland Adventures to Cuba. 

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