Monday, September 24, 2007

Mojitos and Salsa

Holy Cow! Diversity in Howard!

WaPo discovers a little Latin flair in Howard when it stops by a pachanga Cubana over the weekend.

"The sounds of Cuban salsa soar amid the tall oak trees, the minty mojitos are flowing like water. Among the 100 or so politicos, entrepreneurs, bankers and social service managers gathered yesterday afternoon and evening around the swimming pool, there are more guayaberas than sports coats. They're feasting on Cuban classics like ropa vieja (beef) and lechon (pork), followed by flan and tres leches, then strong coffee and long cigars -- not from Cuba, alas, the puffing men complain in mock dismay, but from Honduras.

"Pachanga Howard? Latino middle-class professionals have long since spread beyond the typical Latino neighborhoods in and around Washington. In common with professionals the world over, they like to party and to network. This pachanga -- a word that Cubans in particular use to mean 'big party' -- is supposed to combine both passions of the multi-tasking careerist. Leave your stuffy work inhibitions at home.

"The hosts are Enrique Carrillo, director of Hispanic banking for Chevy Chase Bank, and his wife, Maria, a doctor who specializes in pulmonary critical care. Enrique Carrillo likes to say he's 'American with Cuban parts' -- his parents fled Castro and he was born in the United States -- while Maria Carrillo was born in Cuba. But Cubans are actually in the minority here in the Carrillo back yard, their big brick home thrown open to natives from at least a dozen Latin American countries, along with several appreciative gringos."

Carrillo recently moved to the county from Detroit, where his parties were a big deal.

"He wrote a memo for his bosses at Chevy Chase, who had never heard of such a thing. But then, Carrillo has been hired to institute change. Thanks to him, when you call the bank's main number, the second sentence you hear is "Gracias por llamar a Chevy Chase Bank" -- "Thank you for calling Chevy Chase Bank." The phrase "Hablamos su idioma" -- "We speak your language" -- is now part of the bank's marketing. Some other banks are ahead of Chevy Chase in reaching out to Latinos, but Carrillo says he wants to set a new standard.

"Bringing people together, what a wonderful thing to do, and that's what I like to do," Carrillo says.

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