Especially in Miami, where people continue to support efforts to one day see a free Cuban nation.
For one Wynwood brewery, the mission has spawned a daylong event. In celebration of its La Tropical familia and Cubans across Miami, Cervecería La Tropical will host its first La Tropical Familia Reunion at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 16.
Since opening early this year, the brewery has been a gathering place and cultural community center for Cuban-Americans and their families to share memories and pass down stories about the original La Tropical in Cuba, La Tropical CEO Manny Portuondo tells New Times.
“My favorite customers since opening have been the multigenerational families who come because they have memories of La Tropical in Cuba they want to share with younger generations. They remind me of why I embarked on the mission to bring this iconic brand back to life," says Portuondo, a fifth-generation descendant of the family that owned the site where La Tropical was located in Cuba.
To commemorate the event, Portuondo met with Miami-based Cuban artist Rigo León to discuss how to dedicate the walls outside the brewery along NE 25th Street with a work of art that would bring awareness from a uniquely Cuban perspective.
Established in 1888, Cervecería La Tropical was Cuba's first brewery. It was seized by the communist government in 1960 but reopened in February with a new permanent location in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District.
Alongside four other Cuban artists, León designed an "#SOS Cuba" mural speaking to human rights in Cuba through visual arts. León, who was recently part of McDonald's "Ritmo y Color" campaign celebrating Hispanic culture and pride, worked with artists Anthony Hernandez, Rei Ramirez, Ivan Roque, and Amir Santiago on the collaboration.
The mural captures iconic Cuban symbols, such as the Tomequin bird, machete, Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, and mariposa flower, as well as images from the 11J uprising in Cuba, including San Isidrio. Future additions to the mural will include an area where the names of Cuba's political prisoners will be listed. The work is being unveiled today to kick off the Familia Reunion, as well as a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"The world is witness to the abuse of the Cuban dictatorship against its own people, 62 years oppressed," León tells New Times. "That is why I got together with these artists, with the support of La Tropical and the local community — to make sure that we don't forget. We bring consciousness and storytelling through art. Today Cuba is not afraid. It is asking for justice, and the best way to help is to continue communicating the truth and sharing the videos and photos that come out of our little island that is tired of so much abuse. That is why we are here."
This week, the Portuondo and the founding Blanco-Herrera families invite anyone once affiliated with the original La Tropical — and fans of the current brewery — to celebrate 133 years of Cuban heritage. As part of the celebration, they ask guests to share stories through photos and memorabilia to display as part of a memory board while meeting with their extended La Tropical family.
The brewery has also partnered with the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba; proceeds from ticket sales and 10 percent of brewery sales will go to the foundation. Entry costs $10 per person and includes one free beer. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite or at the door. There'll be live music by Manny Swagg, whose family has ties to the original La Tropical. Limited-edition Familia Reunion T-shirts will be available for purchase.
"I hope it’s a fun event that brings out people with ties to the brewery, and others who want to be part of our new Miami history being written today," Portuondo says. "Preserving and celebrating our culture — and making sure it gets passed down to the younger generations — is important to all of us. We must never forget where we come from while looking towards the future and always remembering how blessed we are as Cuban Americans to have been born in a country that provides freedom and opportunity to all."
La Tropical Familia Reunion at Cervecería La Tropical. 6 p.m. Thursday, September 16, at 42 NE 25th St., Miami; cervecerialatropical.com. Tickets cost $10 and include one beer.