Barbecue in Cuba, "architecture" and culinary

Barbecue in Cuba, "architecture" and culinary

Heritage & Traditions

Nina Pereira

Apparently without a precisely defined origin, the word “barbacoa” in Cuba has two interpretations, an “architectural” reference, unlike in other countries, where it has significance mainly linked to culinary matters.

It is one of those words that every Cuban knows, in this case, understood as "construction as a mezzanine to gain space in homes, artificially creating an additional floor", according to the popular Cuban Glossary, by scholars from the Universities of Havana, Murcia and Glasgow. 

\This kind of innovation to alleviate the country’s housing deficit, especially in Havana, is observed mainly in houses with high prop, which allow taking advantage of space vertically, generally to be used as a bedroom.

It is a platform built in a traditional way, more commonly made of wood or concrete, which is accessed by a staircase also made by hand, and with the additional component of imagination.

The Dictionary of the Spanish Language says the term comes “perhaps from the Taíno “barbacoa” and attributes several meanings to it, none of which is, precisely, the most common in Cuba, discussed here.

Among them are: The grill used to cook meat or fish in the open air, the set of foods prepared in this way and various Americanisms, which in the case of Cuba and other countries in the region are "scaffolding on which the person who has to watch over the cornfields", "small house built high on trees or stakes" and "wattle or rough platform on top of the houses, where grains, fruits, etc. are kept".

Chroniclers point out that the aborigines of the island lived in houses made of wood and guano in different ways, from the classic cubic, called bohío; circular, called caney, or on stilts, the barbecue, and at some point the latter had two floors.

However, barbecue also has in the Caribbean nation a well-known connotation linked to cuisine: Cuban barbecue chicken, a delicious recipe with soy sauce, butter, garlic, cumin and other condiments to the taste of the person who prepares it.