Monday, March 15, 2010

The Echevarria Interviews (Part 1)

So there's this project in my Elementary Spanish II class. We're supposed to visit and interview a native Spanish speaker. We're supposed to talk to them about many a wide variety of topics. I'm pretty sure I picked a good choice. This is just the first entry, but it should be a substantial one.

Dunkan Echavarria owns and runs a cigar bar in downtown Salisbury called Havana Knights. This is where I first met him. I enjoy the occasional cigar, and I was excited to see a place open up locally that sold them. As soon as I walked into the door, I was met and welcomed. The place is overflowing with enthusiasm and hospitality. But I'm not here to review the store.

Dunkan's parents came to America in the late 1960's as part of the Freedom Flights. He was born in Miami in 1971 and was raised in Little Havana. Most of his life was spent in Miami and for many years he owned an interior design company specializing is top to bottom refinishing of houses to be resold in a short period of time. As the coming collapse of the housing market reared its ugly head, he started looking for a new line of work. He had family in this area and came to visit a cousin over New Year's in 2008/2009. He felt that Salisbury had a lot of potential and saw an opportunity to take advantage of the central location in the state. He opened up Havana Knights in 2009. In talking with him, he never fails to mention his family. He is enthusiastic about hard work and hospitality. He interacts with his customers, befriends them. He has very successfully created an atmosphere where people from all walks of live can come in, enjoy a smoke and talk. In the times I've come in I've gotten to know some of his regulars: an attorney, a college professor or two, a bartender, a housewife, students. Much has been made of Hispanic hospitality (there's that word again) and if there was anything in my experience that has proved it, Dunkan's shop is it. And it must be working, since he is planning to move to a much larger location and foresees the opportunity to open up more locations in the near future.

I've tried to speak a little Spanish with him from time to time, but my aural skills aren't fully up to speed. But he's a pretty understanding guy. He recommends lifestyle magazines to anyone trying to learn a foreign language. He highlighted the relatively simple language and the inclusion of slang and turns of phrase as key reasons to use them to help fully comprehend a language. Made sense to me.

This is just a brief summation of several hours of conversation. I'll have plenty more to talk about next time.