Casa de Meta: the metamorphosis from Hollywood influencers to Havana locals
Sitting on the stoop with a cool yet still humid breeze whipping around her signature curls. Hachy was born in Cuba 39 years ago. Her life would change when she was brought to Miami at age three during the famous Mariel Boatlift, a mass emigration of Cubans, who traveled from Cuba's Mariel Harbor to the United States between 15 April and 31 October 1980. The term "Marielito" (plural "Marielitos") is used to refer to these refugees in both Spanish and English. While the boatlift was incited by a sharp downturn in the Cuban economy, generations of Cubans had immigrated to the United States before the boatlift in search of both political freedom and economic opportunities.
Raised in Miami Hachy has always been surrounded by art and music. With a distinctive frame, petite, but full, sturdy, shapely thick legs, light skin, dark eyes, and that hair. An afro-cuban afro to write home about, sitting on top of her head like a crown. With a name like Hayachira, aka Hachy, she's always stood out.
Its that uniqueness that brought her to Los Angeles to study Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). After getting her Business degree from University of Florida, Product development was soon to follow. FDIM was a great fit, she learned everything from sewing to merchandising. Design was surely her passion.
Since Hollywood is the city of stars, it was no surprise that the alented stylist would begin to be working alongside them, eventually becoming a trusted stylist to stars like Omar Epps, Marlon Wayans, Pili Montoya, and even working hand in hand with Alicia Key’s team on The Voice.
Hachy’s incredible career and star-studded client list has kept her busy traveling for clients and afforded the means to travel for pleasure. On a recent trip Hachy decided to make a change; Hachy is moving to Cuba, repatriating as a Cuban National and moving to Cuba.
It’s the type of big life move we’ve all dreamed about, but Hachy is a risk taker, in both fashion and life. Caling her design style “eclectic chic” and her life style “impulsive and adventurous”. Indeed.
Only recently has the relationship between Cuba and the United States improved, and with a new Administration “leading” the country, it’s too new to determine the future. A risky move for some, but Hachy and her husband Gene are confident in their choice, and are excited about the change.
So how did someone having success in Los Angeles’s entertainment industry do a 180?
With the hustle and bustle of the entertainment city, driving thru traffic and the general high stress environment, Hachy was looking for a change. During a rare visit to Cuba, to see some family her Husband said, what about this life--Referring to the minimalist lifestyle and communal culture that Cuba has to offer.
The more Hachy thought about it, the more it made sense. She craved the easygoing lifestyle and wanted to spend more time with family. She feels connected to the art, architecture, music and culture. “There is music everywhere, they blast it at 7am, cubans have embraced it, it's in their blood.” But the most striking thing was the familial atmosphere, Everyone living as equals, there was a lack of racism and classism. “As an Afro-Cuban woman, that was something that I had never experienced before.”
We as Americans don’t know much about current day Cuban life or culture. Hachy admits that there are a lack of many amenities that we consider necessary. At the same time, she couldn't help but notice that there isn’t a homeless population or problem. People generally do not beg in the street, and everyone is well nourished and have access to free education.
Upon returning to her Los Angeles home, she got to work on her Vision Board. Something she has learned to believe in throughout the years. As a visual artist in the fashion medium, this is an important step in her creative process. Hachy says her board consisted of “Images of Cuban Homes under construction, being renovated...stained glass, high ceilings, hand painted tile...something to transform into a chic bed and breakfast.”
It took a year and a half from idea to conception. Researching the ideal location, looking for a colonial home while walking home from the Fabrica de Arte fell in love with Vedado, a suburb of Havana. The Fabrica de arte is a refurbished oil factory turned into an art gallery/performance space/restaurant/rooftop bar, right smack in the middle of Vedado making the neighborhood a hotbed for art and artists. It was a natural fit.
Hachy had never considered being an Ex Pat before, but her Husband, Gene had, in fact, it had always been a dream for him. The two began researching the necessary steps to make their dream a reality. It wasn't long before the two were able to find the perfect property, an 8 bedroom 4 bathroom house with stained glass, high ceilings, spiral staircase and a 75ft long dining room.
Turning majestic properties into a Bed and Breakfast has increased in Havana. Several other properties have put their unique spin on the idea. One inspiration is Paseo 206, also located in Vedado- which offers not only a Hotel but a full restaurant serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Hachy’s favorite room, is the rum room nestled in the back, previously the home’s library which was lost in a poker bet in the late 30s.
The neighborhood of Vedado being close enough to the heat of the city, yet far enough away to enjoy a mellow stroll through a safe, quiet, tree lined street. With incredible eateries, hot hotels and nightlife nearby, Vedado is the perfect place to call home while visiting La Habana.
While waiting for her repatriation paperwork, Hachy continues her work as a top stylist, costumer and design consultant in Hollywood, making trips several times a year out to Havana, every time becoming more and more in tune with the city.
Emerging trends in fashion and design are everywhere. Despite deciding to leave the fashion industry, the artistry follows her wherever she goes. Cuba is no exception. The youth, eager to be on the cutting edge, closely follow online trends. In Cuba, wifi and internet connectivity are scarce and require going to one of the many public parks or squares, where the government has installed wifi routers. The access cards cost locals 1 peso, but they quickly buy them up and flip them to tourists for $3-$5. That may seem like a steep fee, but no one charges more than the hotel sector, $10 per hour.
This limited access requires Cuban Nationals to quickly prioritize their internet browsing. The focus? News, connecting with friends and family, music, fashion and posting to social media.
Hachy caught a couple of fashionistas in the street, snapping their unique style calling Cuba the “New Fashion Capital”. A mix of old and new, bright colors, piercings, tattoos. There may be an embargo between the US and Cuba, but trading street style is ongoing. With a lot of products coming in from Europe and China, the mix is a mash up of Couture and knock offs. Even an emerging skateboard culture, “We spoke to some pro skateboarders who had come to cuba for an event, they told us that every skateboard in Cuba has been brought there by someone specifically as a gift. Its amazing to see the kids mimicking the styles I see on the Skaters in LA”
She has already started inadvertently curating shooting locations, “there really isn't a bad spot to take a picture in the city, and somehow the lighting is always perfect.”
Her passion for style and design affecting her every move. She begins to work with contractors and architects to perfect the aesthetic of the new Bed and Breakfast. Something to match the changing city. Authentic like the street art “it looked sad to me, but there is a sincerity to it. More art is emerging now that the people are experiencing more freedom and financial stability.”
Hachy and Gene’s new home boasts a mix of colonial architecture and moroccan influence -a perfect fit for the two, having just returned from a trip to Marrakech. They plan to continue the merging of styles as they continue their renovations. Their passion for travel will surely also affect the space.
“It's almost like a blank canvas, but we want to preserve as much of the original as possible”. The property will feature several deluxe suites, with large private bathrooms and private sitting rooms, a gourmet chef and special events. “Were working on a Monday Movie night where we will project movies on the wall so guests can watch from the rooftop in the summer air, music, food events...we have so many ideas.”
Hachy is looking forward to starting a new chapter in her life, so different from the glitz and glam she's become accustomed to but with a whole lot of flavor.
“I want to find a way of seeing more entrepreneurship but not full blown capitalism that would bring corruption to the island.”
Keeping authenticity and a connection to her roots is important to Hachy as she relocates to her homeland. Naming her new venture became a personal process. Even the address of her new home, 254, has meaning. It was the numbers her late father would play in the underground lottery- something she didn’t know until her Tia Norma told her, the numbers symbolizing butterflies and flowers. Its like a rebirth, a metamorphosis, just like when she left the island on the Mariel boat lift, lining up to board the boats, those staying behind called them, Gusanos, or Caterpillars- like their duffle bags.
Hachy can’t help but be moved. “Now returning after a metamorphosis and the irony of the address meaning butterflies and flowers, there is a strong connection with the metaphysics and manifestation of all of this. Im calling the new house ‘Casa de Meta’, playing off Meta being a powerful prefix and the tie in to the metamorphosis of it all.”
Follow Hachy and Gene on their metamorphic journey as they transform “254” into “Casa de Meta”. IG @HachyMendez www.casademeta.com