DEI and the Cuban Sandwich

How is the Cuban sandwich and the quest for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion the same? Here’s a little hometown history: most people think the Cuban sandwich comes from Cuba, but that’s the farthest thing from the truth—the Cuban sandwich was developed at the turn of the century in Tampa, Florida, where the cigar business was flourishing. At the time, the cigar industry was a great majority of manual production…hand-rolled cigars, anyone? With all handiwork in that era, it meant enlisting immigrant labor. Immigrants of that time and place were of Italian, Spanish, and German descent, so the cigar factories were filled with a variety of immigrants from different walks of life, tastes, and experiences.

To satisfy those varied tastes, the cafes serving the factory workers developed a sandwich that would indulge the needs of Italians with cheese and salami, the Spanish with roasted pork, Cubans with palmetto bread, and Germans with tangy mustard and pickles. Those ingredients were combined and pressed in a plancha until the bread was toasted and the cheese was melty. Now that you’re salivating, hopefully, you’ve realized that those are all the ingredients to the world-famous Cuban Sandwich.

So what does the Cuban sandwich teach us in our pursuit of DEI today? Like in the Tampa cafes during the cigar factory era, the difference of needs, perspectives, and backgrounds came together with distinct desires. Those varied desires put something together that no one on their own would have ever done. And if you’ve ever bitten into a Cuban sandwich, you know how good and how powerful that combination can be!

Just like I’ve got you searching for the nearest Cubano cafe for lunch today, seek Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in your business, and bring those needs together to create something better than anyone on their own would ever imagine.