Yohandra, Pedro, and Mont Carpe Diem: A story of love, life, and resiliency
I met Pedro more than 15 years ago, it always felt like he was family, like he was my brother in another life, you know that feeling, when you feel so connected to another human being but not in a romantic way. One evening he had invited me to accompany him to a party at a friend’s house and that’s when he saw Yoha for the first time ( by the look on his face at that moment I think it was love at first sight). She was so pretty, long brown curly hair, big green eyes, joyful personality, and she was dancing by herself. Pedro really wanted to ask her to dance, and me being the good friend (or Cupid, lol) I was, encouraged him to do so and they haven’t stopped dancing together since.
They sometimes call me Sharito, or Shari, never Sharon. I have watched them both go through hardships always with a positive attitude, respect for each other, and resiliency. Nobody gave them what they have, they did not inherit a fortune, they didn’t win the lottery, they had to leave Cuba and what they have done is work hard, be good to others, and love each other through it all.
This is their story :
As if everything had been planned, both left Cuba in the same year: 1994. Pedro left for Costa Rica, Yohandra headed to Paris. They both remained in those countries for a few years, each one with their loves and their dreams, without suspecting what destiny kept in store for them.
For very different reasons and without knowing each other, they both arrived in Puerto Rico, coincidentally, in 2002. As I mentioned before, In October of that year they met, and their story began. They discovered so many coincidences, among them how close to each other they actually lived in their native Cuba. They wondered how many times they must have seen each other as children without realizing it, since they both used to spend their holidays with their respective families at the same place, the beach of Caibarién. As a young man, Pedro used to visit a friend who lived right next to Yohandra’s house in Vedado, in fact both Pedro and Yohandra lived in the Vedado area of Havana. You can say it's destiny, or fate, or pure coincidence, I say it is amazingly magical.
Shortly after they met in Guaynabo, they moved together to a small apartment in University Gardens in San Juan, Puerto Rico, along with Yohandra’s two small children, 6 and 7 years of age at the time. Both worked hard but with much enthusiasm. In a few months, with the money they had saved they managed to buy their first house, living every second as if it were the last, always surrounded by very dear friends, and hosting wonderful gatherings. I was in many of those gatherings and can tell you that Yoha is an amazing cook and makes the best Tres Leches cake I have ever had, Pedro is an excellent cook himself and also makes the best Cuba Libres and Mojitos I have tasted!
In May 2005 they bought the place where they and their dreams dwell today. They spent 10 long years of hard work, learning experiences, and good times too, building what they own today in this paradise of great natural beauty. They both love animals and nature so they planted beautiful tropical plants and flowers all over the property and acquired a few animals, some adopted, that roam free and happy throughout the property.
One day, at the beginning of 2015, having worked for different companies, they decided to put their energies, and their natural talent for hosting, to the service of themselves and others who, like them, appreciate friendship and see the world without fear or prejudice, for those to whom human relationships have value. They opened the doors to their own residence, what they have, and what they are, to all those who wish to have an experience of service and exceptional well-being.
In May of 2016, Mont Carpe Diem opened to the public as a Boutique Inn. Receiving many people with the qualities they expected (mentioned above), from whom they continuously received the most rewarding and touching testimonials about their virtues as hosts, as well as about the charm and the magical energy of the place. You can find those testimonials on their Facebook Page, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Airbnb and Home Away.
As you can see from the photos below, the place is spectacular! a labor of love and a reflection of who these people are. The entire property has been exquisitely decorated by Yoha, and most of the artwork that you see on the walls and grounds was made by Pedro, who is a fantastic artist. They are also great collectors and supporters of Cuban art, all the artwork on the walls is by cuban artists, except for one commissioned piece in their master bedroom which was painted by me many years ago :-) (not shown).
The majority is by cuban artist Elias Federico Acosta Perez, other cuban artists in their collection are: Amelia Pelaez, Gatorno, Abela, Aguero, and Gorki.
Pedro says of their collection: " Each one of them has a special meaning to us, and by acquiring these pieces we show solidarity with the artist because we know it is difficult for them to make a living in the arts in a world where everyone wants to be the same".
In September 2017 the passage of Hurricane Maria, devastated Mont Carpe Diem, everything they had built with so much sacrifice through the years, was gone in a moment, leaving Yohandra and Pedro in total sorrow...but not defeated. They were grateful they, their family, and their animals were alive, the rest could be repaired.
To these two amazing, resilient people, their loss was just a pause, not the end…and they began to rebuild.
It didn’t take them long to rise again and rebuild all. They went through eight tedious months without electricity and doing hard physical labor. They worked endlessly, with their own hands, until they were able to stand again.
Today everything is even more beautiful than before! Plants grew back stronger and taller, and the animals adapted to the changes with lots of love from their human friends. On September 1, 2018 Mont Carpe Diem reopened its doors to the world, and already people are starting to fill its spaces and their own hearts.
I asked them to please share a few words of advice, and this is what they said:
Yohandra : " When a person emigrates to another country, that person must integrate into that society. Must have respect for their traditions, culture, and people. Wherever you are, be it your own country or another, your attitude must be of work and effort, of earning what you want. You must want to get up and walk without fear, with self-confidence because we are all the same, what some achieve, others can achieve too. It all depends on you."
Pedro : "I'll try to be brief, Sharito, simplify what could be complex, which is in fact, one of the qualities of a healthy mind. Lets take these points as guide:
1. Don't listen or watch news.
2. Start each day as what it is, a new beginning.
3. Pay attention to your thoughts when you are alone. Spend time thinking how to become useful and productive.
4. Being useful, can simply mean helping to keep your house organized, taking the trash out, or selling what we don't use, cleaning, tidying up, classifying things in an organized way. If our surroundings are organized, our minds, then our thoughts will be organized as well.
5. Watch Nature. Where do you think butterflies get their "enthusiasm" from?? They get their nutrients from the flowers and are "useful" when they pollinate.
I hope this story of my friends inspired you. To learn more about the beautiful place they have built, or if you are in need of spending time relaxing in paradise, send them a message or give them a call, they will treat you like family ( and they love their family!). These are their links:
Facebook: Mont Carpe Diem