Fresh from a pandemic

Sometimes it’s just a question of how you decide to cope with life. And in this story, it was complicity in the kitchen and the pretext of a pandemic that led Violena, Leysa and Evelyn to become “Las Frescas.”

Their quarantine spent at the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television (EICTV) meant a change to their routines. Violena was studying documentary filmmaking, Leysa worked as an actress and was beginning to grow as a producer, while Evelyn was (is) the School’s designer and also worked as an art director for short films.

One case of COVID-19 kept them in isolation for a month. They spent the time mostly making vegetarian food. It was then that they began to imagine what it would be like to have a healthy food and home delivery business.

“We proposed the products: hummus, pesto, lentil burgers, tahini, dahl, spinach balls. At the beginning, we only thought of making them for our friends. We were already in the habit of cooking, preparing drinks or setting up stalls to sell snacks to raise money for films; and that’s where we got the idea from,” Leysa explains.

The concept of healthy food came from their experience at the school, where the culinary culture of many countries coexists. They also learned about and advocate for healthy eating based on what they can get in the country.

“There really isn’t much of a vegetarian food culture in Cuba. We have realized that, since there is more information and internet access, many people have started taking an interest in changing their way of eating, taking advantage of fruits, vegetables and/or fresh foods. We believe that there is more and more concern and interest in healthy eating,” Evelyn notes.

“In the face of food shortages it’s complicated, there are no fixed places, no suppliers from which we can always get our supplies. We cannot predict what we will produce in the next three weeks, but it is precisely this ‘inventing with what is available’ that has made our products vary constantly. We have a more diverse menu, which as time goes by allows us to include new recipes, based on what we find in the market,” Violena adds.

For these girls who have managed to establish a home delivery system using bicycles, the experience may not have been as profitable, but it has been a new way to reinvent themselves and be creative. And this has been greatly influenced by their connections with other entrepreneurs.

“This has been one of the most beautiful things about the project. Las Frescas was initially just the three of us, however, little by little people approached us, mostly women, who already had their small businesses, or who made products like ours in their homes, but did not dare to sell them. Such was the case that while we began as just three, now we are a small community of women artists (we have one man among us), who make these types of products.

“The work on social networks, especially through our Instagram page, also helped us connect with similar projects (many of them emerging from the pandemic). It has been a space to establish links with people who dared to create during these complicated times.”

They do not consider themselves experts in the subject, but they are very happy to have started. Like them, many women are now leading initiatives from the private sector. Evelyn, Leysa, and Violena are proud to be part of this, but they also consider that the real achievement is that it’s not noticeable whether they are women or men.

“Las frescas” emerged from an abundance of ideas. It defines their spirit, the quality of their products, and identifies them as a community of (fresh) women who spend their time inventing and sharing.

“Ironically, the pandemic was the driving force. Now that life is getting back on track, we are having a hard time staying the same as before, because of all that the new normality implies for our personal and professional lives. However, our spirit is about adapting and being creative, inventing with all that is green.”

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