Guerra, the 3rd generation behind the family business welcomed us behind the scenes of the Cuban-American icon.
la caja china factory worker welds a grill
A worker welds a grill at La Caja China’s factory in Hialeah. Photo: Startup Cuba

This holiday season we find ourselves sandwiched between family and the Omicron variant (which this author has right now – ugh). So here at Startup Cuba, we want to take you somewhere special, virtually. We had a few options in mind: inviting ourselves to your house for Nochebuena, crashing Midnight Mass or visiting one of the holiest places of all… La Caja China factory.

Luckily for you, we’re not coming to your house. And, lucky for us, Avian Guerra, the Vice President and 3rd generation behind the family business welcomed us to show how your little pig love box was made. No clue what I’m talking about? Keep reading – and watch the video below.

La Caja China and Nochebuena are basically like white on rice. It just goes hand in hand. It’s what everyone looks forward to.

Avian Guerra, 3rd Generation at La Caja China

La Caja China is a wooden or metal roasting box designed to roast whole animals. It’s used for everything from lambs to goats and chicken to seafood. Yet, its most popular use, by far, is roasting pigs. The box’s heat source (charcoal) is on top, producing tender meat and crisp skin. It’s designed to cook a whole pig in half the time as cooking it traditionally, underground. If you’re a fan of pork, it’s pretty amazing.

WATCH: Avian Guerra takes us on a factory tour at La Caja China.

The box was Avian’s grandfather’s idea in 1987. He remembered seeing railroad workers, back in Havana’s Little China neighborhood, roasting meats in similar contraptions. He and Guerra’s father got to work and created the now famous product.

wood panels at the la caja china factory in hialeah
La Caja China wood panels ready for assembly. Photo: Startup Cuba

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At first it was a hobby; they made a few boxes here and there. Eventually, Avian’s father realized they had an idea with legs and he dove in full time. The roaster was featured on shows with the likes of Martha Stewart, Andrew Zimmern and Bobby Flay. That’s when things really took off.

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Today, La Caja China is shipped across the United States and around the world. And of course, it’s found on just about every block in Miami on Nochebuena. “La Caja China and Nochebuena are basically like white on rice,” says Guerra. “It just goes hand in hand. It’s what everyone looks forward to.”

La Caja China’s factory, in a nondescript building in Hialeah, doubles as its showroom. The boxes are manufactured, from raw materials to shipment, at the location. Avian took us through the entire facility; welding, metal bending, wood cutting, painting, and final assembly. It was super cool.

If you don’t have a Caja China, they’re sold at the factory showroom or online. Prices start at $389 for a 40 pound roaster. The Model 2, as it’s called, can roast a 100 pound pig. It’s available online for $449.

If you have one, please email me for my address. A small YETI cooler with some dry ice will get your Nochebuena leftovers to my house, ready to eat, overnight.

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Ken Deckinger is the co-founder and CEO of Startup Cuba and the executive producer and host of its namesake docuseries. A native of South Florida, Ken has been an entrepreneur for his entire professional career. Previously he was co-founder and CEO of HurryDate, pioneering the global concept of speed dating to 45 cities throughout the US, UK and Canada. HurryDate eventually evolved into online dating and was acquired by Spark Networks, the parent company of ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com. Ken is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Florida, where he was honored with the University’s Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40 award and sits on the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He actively advises entrepreneurs and is a two-time protagonist of a Harvard Business School case study. Ken’s filmmaking and journalistic journey is inspired by a love of travel and authentic connections with other cultures. He believes that the more we know about each other, through stories, the closer we can become — thus the mission of Startup Cuba: to amplify the voices of the people sharing stories in the Latinx space. After living in New York City for 15 years, he encouraged his wife to move their family to Miami to get back to his South Florida roots. Needless to say, it was a short discussion and he and his family now call Boston, where his wife grew up, their home.

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