Visions of the Soul de Cuba Cafe restaurant concept first came to Jesus Puerto
in the mid 1980's while attending college in Ybor City, Florida.
It was after his
1991 layoff in the wake of Eastern Airlines' collapse that Jesus
decided to invest in his
vision by enrolling in a two-year restaurant management course.
Let go and let God, Allah, Buddah, Obbatala or whoever is in charge... 'cause it surely ain't me....
- Jesus Puerto, Founder, Soul de Cuba Cafe
On Easter weekend 1993, Jesus
was diagnosed with spinal meningitis.
Doctors gave him a few hours to live and advised his
family that the slight chance of survival would come at a cost -- loss of sight or hearing, or even mental impairment.
In what doctors described as "without scientific explanation," "a miracle" and "lucky," Jesus
survived and recovered without complications.
In the Afro-Cuban tradition of spirituality practitioners believe the duties of miraculous healing are taken on by the Orisha (Angel), Babalu Aye.
While in recovery, realizing his
tremendous fortune, Jesus
made a promise to dedicate his
life to service and human enhancement.
Though at first it wasn't clear how, his
will and perseverance helped to enlighten his
Since, Jesus has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, a United Nations Volunteer, and as a Charter Board Member and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Western Samoa.
He also worked in the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. where he served as country officer for Peace Corps programs in the Caribbean and Central America.
Before opening the first Soul de Cuba Cafe he
was recruited to work in New Haven, Connecticut by Paul Newman's Association of Hole in the Wall Camps
to develop and support programs and activities in Thailand, Southern Africa and Japan.
In the summer of 2004 Jesus led the development of the first Soul de Cuba Cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.
Two years later, in July of 2006, Jesus
opened Soul de Cuba Cafe
in Honolulu, Hawaii and launched Soul de Cuba Specialty foods.