South of Margaritaville

Some people, when they look at the cover subject for this issue of SN&R, immediately will think of “the communist menace,” represented by an aging, cigar-champing despot in beard and military uniform named Fidel Castro.

Not me. I think of food. Cuban food is obsession-forming delicious, and it is a shame that there are no Cuban restaurants serving lunch within walking, or even driving, distance of this office.

I also think of music, as in rest in peace, Compay Segundo, and thank you and your compatriots, Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez, Omara Portuondo and others in the Buena Vista Social Club. I think of Jesus Alemany and his group Cubanismo, and of percussionist Chano Pozo, who helped ignite the Afro-Cuban jazz craze in the late 1940s when he co-wrote with Dizzy Gillespie.

Cuba is a country rich in culture, contradiction and even irony. Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington has decided that American citizens no longer should have the opportunity to visit Cuba and form their own opinions about the country. That window will close at the end of this year.

Fortunately for us, editor-at-large Melinda Welsh was part of one of the last group tours booked before the ban, and she wrote about her journey. Welsh’s impressions of her October visit form this week’s cover story.

Cuban influence on California may seem negligible, but if you look, or listen, you can find it. One place it turns up is with jazz musicians. For example, the Capital Jazz Project, a quintet of music educators who also play together on a regular basis, likes to perform concerts based on musical themes. This Sunday, it will focus on music from five local composers. But in the past, its concerts have honored Afro-Cuban jazz, along with a number of jazz giants. See SN&R’s Arts&culture story, “Jazz, locally speaking.”

Now, if only someone would open a Cuban restaurant as good as the now-shuttered one in Rancho Cordova that John Baccigaluppi tipped me off to a few years back, this town might be on to something.