Perhaps at one time, Latinos were not seen as a part of London’s great diversity, but now they are very visible. According to the Trust for London and the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, the Latin American population of London is over 113,500 and has grown four times since 2001. There are four main Latin American nationalities represented in London: Colombians, Brazilians, Bolivians, and Peru. However, during my visit, I also encountered Venezuelans and Cubans living and working in London. For example, I visited a Cuban restaurant in the Elephant and Castle area. To my surprise, this was not the only Cuban restaurant in London, but the proximity to my location and the colorful decorations influenced my decision to go and put its authenticity on trial.
Cubana is a restaurant located on a corner property of a street that is open only to pedestrians. Familiar island objects framed the entrance – A carreta with a Cuban flag painted on it and hibiscus flowers everywhere. A large outside seating area is the prelude to a movie set interior with vintage posters pasted on the multi-colored walls.
Alex greets us; he will be our waiter this evening. While we chatted about the restaurant and the Latinos in London, he told us that there are many Latinos and Spaniards who visit and live in London. He is from Barcelona and is studying abroad. The owners of the restaurant are Cubans who originally left Cuba with a visa to Spain and later, after settling their affairs in Spain, came to London to open this restaurant. This is not unusual, he comments. Once you are a resident or a citizen in one European country, it will be easier to travel to other countries in Europe.
I enjoyed my ropa vieja, arroz, and maduros in London, bought a T-shirt with “Cubana” printed on both sides, and continued to my next adventure.