While we were traveling Cuba, we met dozens of friendly families and hospitable casa owners, but when we went to Cienfuegos, we made a couple of new lifelong friends. The entire country of Cuba was filled with kind people who were happy to help us and loved learning about our lives. We were also equally interested in learning about their lives and their backgrounds, so when we met Joel & Ivet of Hostal El Patio del Gitano in Cienfuegos and found out about their love (obsession?) with Spanish Flamenco culture, we were very intrigued.
We arrived at their casa after a long travel day and we were happy that they quickly showed us to our lovely private room so we could freshen up. As soon as we came out to sit down with them, they offered us food, beer and mojitos and started telling us about Flamenco.
Joel has won numerous awards for his cultural involvement in the Cuban community, and he’s been on TV for his excellent guitar playing, amazing cooking skills and of course, Flamenco singing and dancing. Joel’s family originated in the south of Spain and his motherland’s music and dance courses through his veins. He eats, sleeps and breathes Flamenco.
Joel and Ivet became our friends instantly. They were very laid back and loved having a mojito or two, so we had no problem getting along. We would spend our days hanging out with them and their adorable son, and the evenings were spent listening to Joel play his guitar. To the melodic tune of his strumming, Joel and his friends would dance Flamenco and show us all about the Spanish culture and its place in Cuba.
On one particular night, Ivet invited over a few of their friends, one of whom was a 14-year-old Flamenco phenom who has won numerous awards for her amazing dance skills. She was trained by Joel and Ivet at their Flamenco school in Cienfuegos and her dancing was mesmerizing.
That night, amongst the dancing and the guitar playing, there was also delicious Spanish tapas on offer, and numerous people took to the tiny backyard stage to play music, read poetry and sing a cappella.
We don’t know how Joel was able to do everything he did. He would work at the school teaching Flamenco, cook amazing Spanish meals, play guitar with incredible precision (with a massive cigar in his mouth), and him and his wife somehow manage to run one of the most unique Casa Particulares in Cuba.
In total, we spent four nights at their home, and when we weren’t enjoying their company and fantastic hospitality, we were out exploring the town. Cienfuegos is a Spanish Colonial-style city, although many of the buildings are from the 19th century. The city itself has a very well maintained feel, and while it doesn’t have the charm of Havana’s crumbling facades and tumultuous history, it had a very sophisticated feel to it.
We would spend our days walking through the many parks and plazas, and walking along the ocean-side promenade. The people were very friendly and the food was good, but we were always looking forward to returning to Joel’s cooking at the end of the day.
Basically, Joel and Ivet made our stay in Cienfuegos special and we loved every minute spent with them and their son. Their kind and open nature gave us an excellent glimpse into family life in Cuba and they taught us a lot about what it is like to live in a socialist country. We still keep in contact with them today and we recommend that anyone heading to Cienfuegos in Cuba to stop by at Hostal El Patio del Gitano for some food, or for a night’s sleep. You won’t find a more charismatic and life-loving couple in Cuba.
Source: Travel Pulse