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Childhood memories are vivid, almost indescribable in their detail, and impossible to forget. A Christmas memory I have is that of a black velvet dress  a family friend gave to me for my seventh Christmas.
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Home » casa + cultura

Cuban Ingenuity or Resolviendo

Submitted by on February 25, 2011 – 10:26 am3 Comments

Cubans may be the original Life Hackers. So, today in a celebration of cultura we offer up examples of Cuban Ingenuity, the old-style and current.  We come from a people who have kept 60-year-old cars running with gum and random parts. People who have built floating cars to carry them over the Florida Straights. Something is broken? Fix it! Come up with a “Cuban Solution.”

By Marta: My dad was an engineer. A Cuban engineer. Which made him brilliant and innovative with just a touch of Mad Scientist to him.

When we first arrived in this country, someone had given us an old, very used five foot tall refrigerator. We were grateful to have it, since we arrived here with nothing.

But sadly, it was old, and a bit fragile. It had one of those metal handles that you pull down in order to open. Having six kids in the family constantly pulling on that old handle was a bit too much for the old fridge to handle, (pun intended) and so it soon broke off.

My dad, the Cuban Engineer to the rescue!

He found the largest screwdriver he could find. Then he attached some bolts to the bottom to attach it where the old handle had been and voila! New refrigerator handle! We have no photos of this amazing thing. We barely have photos of ourselves during this time, but that’s not important right now.

Check out the sketch I’ve drawn from my very vivid memory of the thing. I always found it in turns amazing and hideous.

Damn Cubans!

diy ipad holder

DIY iPad holder, made from a clothes hanger.

By Carrie: On my first visit to Havana, my aunt and her friends hired a car to take us all to the beach. It was a huge green wagon from the 1940s. I sat behind the driver, and every time he honked at someone, he didn’t hit the steering wheel, he pulled on a chord that ran the length of the car ceiling’s left side – right above my head. Sparks flew each and every time. Right over my head. Did you get that? I thought we were going to explode.

That guy and his horn was one of many examples of “inventando” that I saw during my visits to Cuba. And, as someone who had Cuban grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and everything else, I was no stranger to this ingenuity, this making due.

I inherited a little bit of it.

A few months ago I received an iPad from a client and quickly went out and bought a cover and a wireless keyboard. Not cheap, but necessary And then I realized I needed a stand. I priced them in local stores and online. $40 for a stand? No way.

The gene that tells me to “arreglatelas,” sent me to YouTube. Because, well, the people who upload DIY stuff over there are as genius and insane as la gente I love.

And witness my food processor. A couple of years ago, at Thanksgiving, when I was mixing up my famous pumpkin flan, the liquids started flying out at me, via a small crack in the container. The quick fix — duct tape — worked so well, I haven’t bothered to replace the thing.

food process duct tape fix

Duct tape saves the flan.

And, my flan is extra good — served with a dose of Cuban ingenuity!

Here are some great Cuban ingenuity links from around the Web.

  • Learn more and see photos about the Floating Cubans, or Truck-o-Nauts.
  • Read this story about what Cuban girls used as hair bands, and more “inventando.”
  • Also on Cuban designer and artist Ernesto Oroza’s YouTube page look at videos listed as Desobediencia Tecnologica.
  • Check out this great video starring  Oroza talking about the strange, interesting, smart things the people of Cuba have “invented” to survive.

    Now, what are some of your examples of Cuban or Latino inventando? I know you have stories.

    Share, por favor!

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