Friday, August 15, 2014

Waitin' on the African Queen

Abandoned boat  near  El Cuba Ron Restaurante
Relaxing on with a cold beverage on a dock-side bar we watch the boats slip past; there are colourful fishing pangas, and charter boats, and whale shark tour boats returning for the evening. Lush vegetation overhangs the languid blue-green water. 

Laughter. Tropical heat. Music. 

It could be the movie set from the 1951 movie, The African Queen, staring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.



Colourful panga-style fishing boat
That movie was made the year I was born, and was considered to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the US Library of Congress. 

That's an unusual honor considering in the movie Humphrey Bogart was portrayed as being a quirky and cantankerous Canadian while Katherine Hepburn was a proper, well-mannered Englishwoman.


View from new upper deck at El Cuba Ron
However, on this particular afternoon Lawrie and I are sitting on the new upper deck of the Varadero, also known as El Cuba Ron Restaurante, on Isla Mujeres. 

According to owner Rafael Burgos Rios the name Varadero means a place where boats are built, maintained, and repaired. His grandfather originally used the waterfront property to build and repair boats for island fishermen.


One of Rafael's family members
Born on Isla Mujeres on Mexican Independence Day in 1957 Rafael has Cuban, Spanish, and Mayan ancestors. His ancestors have been on Isla since 1896. His wife Ana Jimenez, on the other hand, was born in Havana Cuba, moving to Isla Mujeres when she married Rafael. 

When Rafael graduated from school he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, cousins, and uncles – working the boats that circulated on a trade route from Florida to Central America. The sailing ships brought oil, maize, medical supplies, shoes, clothing, and the mail. For the return trip the captains loaded live lobsters and turtles destined for American restaurants.




Ana and Rafael
For the first twelve years of operation - El Cuba Ron restaurante - was located on Guerrero Avenue in the funky old building where Pita Amour is now. Then thirteen years ago Rafael decided to move the business to the family owned property on the canal that leads to Laguna Makax. 

Built on the western side of the island near the big boat repair yard it's a great place to hang out on an afternoon, or to enjoy a tasty dinner later in the evening. 

On weekends a Cuban band plays great music from mid-afternoon to early evening.

Rafael outside the entrance
The menu selections include a number of tasty fish, chicken and pork dishes prepared in the traditional Cuban style. 

We also really enjoy their guacamole and Lawrie is a big fan of their mojitos. Mojitos are addictive and sneaky! They are a refreshing drink made with white rum, soda water, sugar, lime and crushed mint. 

The deceptively innocent taste makes it is easy to forget how many you have consumed.





Guest singer at El Cuba Ron Restaurante
While we were enjoying the sunshine, the music, and the ambiance a couple of large cruisers rafted alongside the restaurant – their passengers eager to join the fun. 

One youngster confidently stepped up to the band leader and asked if he could join the group. Pretty soon everyone was dancing and singing along to the tunes.




Well, the boat called the African Queen never did pass by, nor did we see Humphrey Bogart or Katherine Hepburn but it was still a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Try it! You'll like it!

Waterside view of El Cuba Ron Restaurante


Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie



3 comments:

Gailmarie7 said...

I so love your blogs! for all the years and years Ive been on Isla, I FINALLY visited El Veradero for the very first time last spring! what a wonderful place, and you've captured its' essence perfectly. Thanks for bring this to us whille we are off-island. Besos y abrazos!

Lynda Lock said...

Good to hear from you Gail. Hope you are having a great summer. I look forward to your return later in the year. Cheers L

Life's a Beach! said...

Love that place! We always go in the afternoon and order the guacamole and a mojito for Craig. And I actually drink a little of the mojito! Can't wait to see the new deck!