I have always heard that each corner of the planet has its essence, its own smell, its elixir. Cuba’s west could taste like the sea, like the good people who face the challenges of daily life, like the flat-topped hillocks that are typical of this region and make their inhabitants proud of it.
Guayabita del Pinar, the tasty liquor from Vueltabajo and visible sign of the cultural syncretism between Spaniards and criollos, is a unique drink worldwide. The distinction of Intangible Industrial Patrimony granted to it evidences its excellent quality, demand, exclusiveness and handicraft traditions: an excellent drink created more than a century ago, that does not lose its charm.
The truth is that no one imagined back in 1892 that Lucio Garay Zabala, the eighth son of Juan Garay Rentería and Josefa Zabala Barturen, both Spaniards, would turn the well-known mixture of the small guava fruit and rum that farmers drank in the cold winter mornings before going out to cultivate tobacco into a special liquor through the art of wine making.
Its preparation was thought to be quite simple: a mixture of rum, sugar and the fruit whose scientific name is Psidium salutare that grows in the Caribbean and Central America, but very exclusively in Vueltabajo. But that was not enough to obtain an excellent drink of Guayabita del Pinar. You also need gracefulness and the exact dose registered by Lucio many years ago.
The Casa Garay beverage factory, presently Ceferino Fernández Viñas, where the aromatic drink is produced, is located in the city of Pinar del Río, and shows in its façade the passing of time since 1892. Each bottle contains two or three of these guavas; there are two versions of the Guayabita: a dry one, like rum, and a sweet one, like liquor.
The beverage is internationally known. Some the countries where the brand has been registered are Germany, Russia, France, Poland, Portugal, China, Slovakia, Vietnam and Italy.
It is understandable then why Cuban musician Cándido Fabré, the voice of the orchestra Original de Manzanillo, wrote a song that became a success in the decade of 1990. The contagious son, entitled Guayabita del pinar, became a very popular dancing theme throughout the Island and boosted the product’s sales in both the national and foreign markets.
This is only a brief sketch of the drink from Pinar del Río, an essential presentation of my province, but – why not? – also an invitation to enjoy a cultural tradition.
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