Monday, 24 June 2013

Casa Cuba

What are your biggest gripes about life on the Triangle? The one way system? Dog poo on the pavements? The lack of a cinema perhaps? Or even those ugly roller shutters on the front of so many shops? All understandable complaints but pretty insignificant when compared to the hardship of life in Cuba 20 years ago or so. As Miguel Gibson-Galguera explained to me, a severe lack of food was the main day to day issue. The problem was particularly acute in the mid nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cuban economy had been largely kept afloat by the support of the Russians, so, with that support removed, shortages and hardship grew. Miguel was a student at the time, and a lack of public transport meant he had to cycle the 18km to and from school, usually on an empty stomach. The average diet consisted of little more than rice and potatoes, supplemented in Miguel's case by the occasional raid of a banana plantation.
Miguel had planned to study engineering, but fell in love with a girl in linguistics. After graduating and completing the compulsory one year in the army, he started working as a translator, and then later started a holiday business renting houses in Cuba to overseas visitors. To this day, the holiday business forms part of Miguel's work here in Crystal Palace. On first arriving in the UK, he lived in Wolverhampton for a few years, before sensibly settling in South London. He had a friend in West Norwood, which is what initially drew him to this particular corner of the capital. While the travel business had been in operation for several years, Miguel's dream was to open a cafe and cocktail bar, that were authentically Cuban. In his view, so many of the Cuban style bars that have opened in London, simply aren't authentic. When the printers that occupied a prominent  site at the junction of Church Road and Belvedere Road closed down a couple of years ago, he seized the opportunity to create a vibrant new addition to the Triangle. Along with Cuban coffee, cuisine, cigars and cocktails, there's occasional live music on offer, and even now a Cuban "beach" on the unused strip of road in front of the building. But perhaps for a slightly more authentic Cuban beach, you'd be better off booking a holiday through Miguel's Cuba Direct travel business.

Miguel Gibson-Galguera

99 Church Road

Cuba Direct Travel Agency
020 7148 3042