Suarez drinks coffee, talks politics in Shenandoah’s “La Cuevita” [Photo Essay]

The aroma of Cuban coffee filled the home of Maria Elena Harambourl as Commissioner Xavier Suarez stepped inside on Oct. 5. The walls of the house in the Shenandoah neighborhood were filled with old portraits of family and friends, paintings, as well as Cuban records on the shelves adjacent to a piano stand.

The group, all men but for Harambourl, stood up and introduced one another.

“So this is La Cuevita. Unfortunately, some of these guys spent time in a Cuban prison under Fidel Castro,” said Suarez, who is running for Miami-Dade Mayor.

“La Cuevita,” which means “the cave,” has been serving as a place for Cuban exiles and former prisoners to drink coffee and talk politics. Suarez has been attending, and presiding over, the Saturday event for decades.

One attendee, Jose A. Alonso, was imprisoned for four years in Cuba for conspiracy.

“The time in my life I felt most lost was being in prison,” he said.

District 7 Commissioner Xavier L. Suarez discussing his campaign in Miami on Oct. 5. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Xavier L. Suarez sits inside the kitchen of La Cuevita to discuss Miami issues. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Rolando Gaston was imprisoned in Cuba for 20 years. He fought Castro and his army in the mountains of Cuba. He’s lived in Miami for 31 years. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Jose A. Alonso was imprisoned for four years in Cuba for conspiracy. Alonso said, “The time in my life I felt most lost was being in prison.” (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Ariel Semanat spent 17 years in prison for conspiracy against Castro’s govenrment. He has now been living Miami for four years. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Maria Elena waits to make Cuban coffee for all her guests. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Maria Elena points at the picture of her two sons. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Jose A. Alonso sits listening to Xavier L. Suarez discuss politics, family, and life in Miami and Cuba. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Ariel Semanat listens to Xavier L. Suarez discuss life in politics. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Ildenfonso Perez was imprisoned for six years in Cuba. He was a college student who refused to participate in Castro’s revolution. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Maria Elena has lived in Miami for more than 50 years. She fled from Cuba to Spain and moved to Miami in 1966. She opened up her house for former Cuban prisoners in 1985. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)
Xavier L. Suraez at the table reminiscing about his days as kid climbing trees and thinking about the world. (Yasser Marte/SFMN)

I attended Santa Monica College not knowing my interest and major but I knew that I had to return to school. I took some photography because I had an interest in social-economic issues, history and politics and how photographs have the ability to captivate the narrative and atmosphere of these topics. Once I joined The Corsair newspaper I delved deeply into writing and photography. That’s when I decided to immerse myself in journalism. I transferred to FIU continuing my studies in Journalism and photography and I am proudly interning with the Caplin News.