Toast to a new life, with “Aliñao”
By: Elsy Fors
A good guarapo (sugarcane juice) is and will continue to be a truly organic product, genuinely Cuban and ideal for this climate. However, when the birth of a new life is expected, it is necessary to provide “Aliñao” (seasoned beverage).
Many Cuban drinks enjoy international fame, such as rum cocktails: mojito, daiquirí, enroque (castling) and many others. But homemade fermented preparations, longstanding and almost exclusive to the eastern part of the archipelago, such as garapiña, chicha, sambumbia and pru (from fermented fruits), notes the author Madelaine Vázquez, denoting their aboriginal influence, while the use of cane brandy and some herbs tell us about the customs of black slaves, uprooted from Africa.
According to anthropologists, gourmets, ethnologists and other researchers, the essence of the Cuban way of feeding is also hidden in its typification.
Originally from the eastern region, as soon as the woman became pregnant, the preparation of the “Aliñao” began and aged for nine months to celebrate the birth of the new being.
Hortensia Martínez, member of the Roberto Negrín Credit and Services Cooperative, in the province of Granma, took a version of the Aliñao to an event in Mexico that, it is said, dates back to the 18th century.
Born in that eastern province, perhaps one of the places where this practice is still maintained, Martínez considers it essential to “disseminate these experiences to the new generations so as not to lose the native customs.”
Historians estimate that the seasoning emerged in the Cuban countryside, where they fought for independence in the nineteenth century. But tradition barely survives today due to the lack of some of its ingredients.
At the moment, Aliñao can be bought mainly in the east of the country. In the central and western provinces this beverage is little known, except between families that come from the eastern zone.