Thursday, July 19, 2007

[JFP] Mal Tiempo, Buenas Caras (Bad Times, Good Faces)

by Matt Saldaña
July 18, 2007

José Bacallao stares into a boarded-up restaurant on the edge of a Highway 90 strip mall in Waveland, a tiny town in southwestern Mississippi that was the epicenter of one of the strongest, and deadliest, hurricanes in United States history. Nearly two years ago, Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything inside the building, along with a great stretch of the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans. The only evidence that the bare, gray building was once the site of Las Palmas, the traditional Cuban restaurant Bacallao opened two years before the storm hit, is a poster taped inside the glass door. On it, a dancing Cuban woman in a Tropicana nightclub dress swings her hips and shakes a pair of maracas, a bright flower perched in her hair.

Drops of sweat roll off Bacallao’s face as he stares at the woman on the poster and thinks.

“We never thought something like this would happen. Everything was lost,” he says in Spanish, laughing with Cuban wryness. “The money it had given us, the family portraits—everything was lost.”

He bends down and picks up a plastic tea-urn key out of a pile of shattered glass.

Una memoria de Katrina,” he says.

[View the entire article at the Jackson Free Press.]