Note from Sarah: Maria Johnson is an amazing woman. She’s become one of my dearest friends and a spiritual big sister / aunt to me in so many ways. She has a fun blog and a book coming out really soon called My Badass Book of Saints (go forth and pre-order now). She offered to write a guest post about her journey home to Cuba to visit with family … and see/meet/take a selfie with Pope Francis. Please enjoy this joyful reflection.


While the rest of the world was watching the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the United States, I was in Cuba, participating in some of the Pope’s events, getting a selfie, and experiencing life as a Cuban, if only for a brief while.

Part of that experience included sharing many meals with family and friends.

I had an opportunity to sample some of the local beers. My friend Vabs gives me a pass for liking light lagers, so she won’t be too surprised to learn that I actually enjoyed Cuba’s Cerveza Cristal, a very light Caribbean-style lager brewed by Cervecería Bucanero S.A. They also brew a stronger version called Bucanero Fuerte which reminded me a little of Michelob.

I preferred the Cristal. Locals pour it fast, and right when you think the head is going to overflow and the whole thing become a mess, it dies down just in time to take a giant refreshing gulp. This is a beer for the Caribbean heat – light, almost sweet. I don’t like hoppy beers, so I wasn’t disappointed in the absence of a bitter finish. This one quenched my thirst without lingering on the palate.

I don’t think it will appeal to serious beer drinkers – it lacks complexity. Even I could tell it had a light passing aroma, and almost no after taste to savor. Instead, it refreshed me after being in the hot sun. I drank it, along with my companions, like most people would drink a Coke in the States.

That’s not to say Cuba is wimpy on the drinks. I had many opportunities to enjoy a glass of Havana Club, both the light 3 year-old añejo over ice pictured here, and the amber-colored 7 year-old, neat. The lines at Duty Free didn’t deter me from bringing back one of each. I prefer Bacardí – but that’s a story for another time.

Of course, I enjoyed the ubiquitous cup of Cuban coffee, called simply, coffee, in Cuba. That made me laugh.

And for a special treat, I drank some coconut milk fresh off the palm trees! In spite of traveling with family, I was easily marked as a tourist. I couldn’t leave without having the iconic drink of the islands.

It needed a little bit of rum.

Maria Morera Johnson is a blogger and cohost of SPQN’s Catholic Weekend. She is a composition and literature professor and director of English learning support at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, working with nontraditional students in innovative success initiatives. She has received a number of awards for teaching. She speaks on behalf of and consults with several organizations, including St. Vincent de Paul (Vincentians). Johnson helped organize the Catholic New Media Conference. Johnson often presents at national education conferences to encourage women in non-traditional fields to pursue their educational goals. Johnson is a native of Cuba. Her first book, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Cubanita, was self-published. She and her, husband, John, have three grown children and live in Conyers, Georgia.