ELAINE GANTZ BERMAN, MARÍA GARCÍA BERRY, KRISTY SOCARRAS BIGELOW, BILL VIDAL
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS) is presenting the exhibition “¡Cuba!” This exhibit brought “the landscapes, sounds and vitality,” of the Caribbean island to the Rocky Mountains. The exhibit explains the story and the legend of the famous Cuban cigars and explores the Afro Cuban spiritual practice of “santeria”. The central element is a replica of a typical Cuban plaza where we can admire a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, as well as one of the “bicitaxis” that is used for the transportation of locals and tourists. Borrowed objects from Cubans residing in Colorado are also on display. Businesswoman María García Berry shared her Cuban Passport and a doll from her childhood. Meanwhile, Kristy Socarras Bigelow, owner of Cuba Cuba Restaurant, provided an old book that inspired her to open her restaurant: “Cocina al Minuto”. Elaine Gantz Berman, member of the Colorado Board of Education, brought a photo of her grandfather posing in Cuba with Albert Einstein.
You can also see former mayor of Denver, Bill Vidal’s boxing gloves. “¡Cuba!” is truly a tribute to those who were born in Cuba, like García Berry and Vidal, or those with Cuban heritage like Socarras Bigelow and Gantz Berman. “We are honored that these four Cubans who live in Denver are part of this exhibit. In addition to the objects, you can see a picture of its owners, and their thoughts on a hopeful future for Cuba,” explained Maura O’Neal, DMNS’s Communication Director.
Maria Garcia Berry
Maria was born in Matanzas, Cuba, and came to Denver when she was 10. She is the engine behind CRL Associates, Inc., an influential public affair company. She has participated in successful projects such as the reconstruction of Union Station, Bellmar Mall and Stapleton. She shares her experience and vision by serving on the boards of numerous organizations, such as Metro State University, Rose Community Foundation and the Urban Land Institute.
She shares her vision of the country where she was born: “My hopes for Cuba have matured over time. I know more now. Cubans don’t want to ‘become us,’ and I enormously admire the values they want to keep. Cubans are resourceful and creative. We should foster travel, trade, and that creativity with resources and tools, so they can create a functioning economy. I don’t think you can change Cuba from the outside.”
SHE BROUGHT THE CUBAN CUISINE TO COLORADO
Kristy Socarras Bigelow
She was born and raised in Miami, 69 miles from the island where her mother was born. However, Socarras Bigelow says she was raised as if she was still in Cuba. Cuban food was the only option in the menu. When she was 21, she moved to Colorado and started missing the rice, the beans, plantains and lechon, dishes she was used to. She saw the opportunity and took a leap of faith to pen the restaurant Cuba, Cuba, now a successful chain with four locations.
She has clear expectations of the future of the country where her culture comes from: “I wish my friends didn’t have to say, ‘Asi es, asi era en Cuba,’ that’s just the way it is, we’re in Cuba. I hope I will sit with my friends in La Habana one day listening to them tell me that life is much easier now in Cuba. Today, I hear about innovative ways they make ends meet. I want to hear how they are innovating products, businesses, and technology”.
BOOSTING SOCIAL CAUSES
Elaine Gantz Berman
This native from New York, from a Cuban mother, has dedicated her professional work and community service to improve the lives of children in Colorado. In January of 2015, she completed eight years of service at the Colorado Board of Education, following another eight years at the Denver Board of Education, including four years as president of the board. Gantz Berman worked at the Piton Foundation for the past 18 years, in the areas of child wellbeing and public health.
Gantz Berman highlights the values and potential of the home of her ancestors. “My hope is that the Cuban people build upon their resilient, proud, and entrepreneurial spirit. I envision a vibrant and unique arts, music, and dance scene that expands internationally. Because of its amazing people —their spirit, their pride, their joy— Cuba has the potential to become the most prosperous and advanced country in the region. It is now, and will remain, a truly magical place,” stated the leader from Cuban background.
FIRST CUBAN-AMERICAN MAYOR OF DENVER
Guillermo “Bill” Vidal
This native of Camagüey, Cuba, was the Mayor of Denver between January and July of 2011. In 1961, he came to Colorado with his siblings. He was part of the operation “Peter Pan” and he lived four years at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Pueblo, until his parents arrived. Vidal graduated as a civil engineer at the University of Colorado and for 30 years pursued a career in the public sector. This honest and successful public servant documented his life on his book “Boxing for Cuba: An Immigrant’s Story”.
Vidal reflected on his relationship with Cuba: “In an act of love, my parents sent me on a PanAm flight to the U.S. at the age of 10. Though I have been exiled from my homeland for nearly six decades, I find I am still deeply rooted in the island’s rich dark soil. I yearn for my Cuban brothers and sisters to experience the freedoms and opportunities that have filled my life,” explained the first Mayor of Denver born in Latin America.