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From Cuba to Buffalo: Rosa's Journey

Posted at 9:18 AM, Oct 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-02 09:19:45-04

"In Cuba, it's difficult to build yourself up... here, if you are willing to work, you'll do great, and you can live your American dream," said Max Geldres, assistant manager of restaurant "Cuba Rosa," as helped explain the journey Rosa Correa has been in. This is translated from their native language, Spanish.

Rosa is living her American dream, working hard everyday. That also means learning English. But, regardless of the language barrier, her goal is to provide for her family in Cuba, as the chef and owner of "Cuba Rosa".

"Families in Cuba really help each other because of poverty there," said Rosa. "You want to go back... but we also have to help."

That's why she opened this gem on Pearl Street, with the help of Max Geldres. She says her restaurant, Cuba Rosa, offers Western New Yorkers a taste of Cuban cuisine right here in Buffalo.

"I said, oh Buffalo? I didn't even know there was snow here! I didn't know anything, but I said 'I'll go wherever because I want to work!'," said Rosa.

A life-long dream that came with hard work and determination. Her journey was a long one, and goes back almost 20 years. That's when she tried to leave Cuba for the United States on a raft for the first time.

"In that moment, you're going on an adventure into the unknown," said Rosa. "We would see sharks pushing our raft, and we'd ask each other, 'what is going to happen?'"

The only woman, in a boat with nine men. No radio or sense of direction, just oars to row back to land. She says she tried three times only to be stopped by a tornado and engine malfunctions.

"She said the boat started filling up with water, so they were trying to row back 30 miles as quickly as possible," said Max.

After years of applying for a visa, she was legally given access to her dreamland. She was assigned to Buffalo and has been here for eight years now. Rosa was able to open her restaurant mid-August, on her birthday.

"In this country, you can work really hard and see the fruit of your labor," said Max. "In Cuba, you work hard and you don't see anything."

Now Rosa is working hard both in the kitchen, and in her personal life, trying to adapt to a different culture.

"It's difficult," said Rosa. "You need to learn the different laws, and mannerisms. Mannerisms I have learned by looking."

Cuba Rosa offers large portions of authentic Cuban food. Anything from shrimp skewers to steak with rice and beans. Rosa vows to always keep her dishes as Cuban as possible, not Americanized. That way, she still has a piece of home, here in Buffalo.

To take a look at Cuba Rosa's menu, you can head here.