You have to meet Jorge!” That, and “Wait until you experience the summer season,” were the two most oft-repeated sentences I heard the first month I moved to Saratoga to lead saratoga living last December. Granting the obvious nature of the latter sentiment, I was, however, quite amused as to why everyone I met seemed to be lying in wait for the presumed momentous occasion that I’d actually meet Jorge Gómez, the crazy-talented Cuban-born leader of three-time Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean band Tiempo Libre (Free Time). Oh, and he happened to be married to Elizabeth Sobol, President and CEO of the Saratoga Performance Arts Center (SPAC). Just maybe, it was because I was Cuban too. In a town with a handful of Cubans, it’s quite a big deal to greet one of our own.
So, yes, Jorge and I have become close friends. How could we not? But besides the similar (and welcome) rapid-fire cadence we share with our “Cuban” Spanish, we also recognize our family stories and senses of humor in each other. Cubans, as anyone who’s met one can tell you, are born storytellers, and I’m afraid Jorge and I do not disappoint on that front. When you chat with us, you’d better get comfortable.
I laughed my way through three not-so-personal questions (and answers) with the musical prodigy in his Saratoga home.
Tell me, what were your first impressions of Saratoga Springs?
Saratoga was so full of amazing people, terrific food, stunning nature, lots of great music and culture.
With only a handful of fellow Cubans here, what has been the biggest adjustment you’ve made?
I wrote a song a while ago that said, “Soy cubano de nacimiento”—I’m Cuban by birth…and it goes on to say, “No matter where I am, I’m Cuban because of the rhythm I carry within me.” So, even when there’s snow on the ground and temperatures are 80 degrees colder than in Havana, I cook Cuban food at home and speak “Cuban” with my wife and teach my many American friends to play dominos and write and listen to Cuban music—and feel right at home.
If you could ask just one thing of everyone in Saratoga, what would that be?
I’d politely ask them to learn to speak Spanish! [Laughs].