The Wonderful People of Cuba

Cuba is a “melting pot”. The races have so intermingled that it is impossible to categorize the population’s mixture with 100% accuracy.  As of 2012, the population of close to 12 million was made up mostly of  Spanish and Africans.  About 64% of Cubans consider themselves white, or of Spanish descent.  27% of the population is mulatto and mestizo, and 9%  is black. 

With Our Personal Tour Guide in Habana Vieja

Crafter in Trinidad

With the Bartender, chef and waitress at El Zaguan in Havana

With Chambermaid at Palicio O’Farrill Boutique Hotel in Havana

 A very small number of the country’s Chinese population lives in Havana’s Chinatown, where at one point, this area, known as Barrio Chino, was said to have been the largest in Latin America.  However, today, the Chinese population has almost diminished, and/or blended into the Cuban culture, and the neighborhood (Barrio Chino) has lost most of it’s splendor. 

Most Cubans are Roman Catholic.  There are also Protestants and a small Jewish population. Before the revolution, there were close to 20 thousand Jewish people in Cuba, mostly seeking sanctuary during WWII.  Now, there are a few thousand.  Many of Cuba’s blacks are followers of Santeria

The Cuban people are friendly, outgoing, stylish, and a s helpful as can be.  If my group even looked a little confused, there was a passerby at the ready with directions, information, or legitimate suggestions.

Artist in Trinidad

With Artists at the Rumba Festival in Habana Vieja
Stylish Teens in Habana Vieja

Stylish Toddler in “Jellies” in Pinar del Rio

Newly passed regulations now allow for some forms of capitalism.  The Cubans are very hard-working and are known for their entrepreneurial skills.  To be able to branch off (somewhat) on their own is a huge stepping stone for them, and an opportunity that they do not take lightly.  During our visit we met an English professor-turned-independent tour guide, grammar school teachers, paladar (both small and large) owners, artists, fishermen, musicians, farmers, concierges, chambermaids, doormen, a dentist, bartenders, a cigar-maker, tour bus drivers, IT specialists and chefs, to name a few.  Each and every one of these people, worked their craft with noticeable passion. 

Cigar Maker in Vinales

Cocktail Crafter at Cueva del Indio in Vinales

With Constelacion group members at Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Doorman at Palicio O’Farrill Boutique Hotel in Havana

Farmer in Pinar del Rio

Fishermen in Havana

Teacher and Students in Trinidad



Musicians at La Moneda Cubana in Havana



Note From Chambermaid in Trinidad

With Artist in Havana

 One thing I can personally say about the Cuban people is that they truly made me not want to leave them.

Concierge at Palicio O’Farrill Boutique Hotel in Havana

With Tour Guide in Havana

My Favorite Farmer in Vinales

Vinales, Cuba – Tobacco Route

Our day 2 in Cuba was my favorite.  It was a very, very long day.  The car ride from Havana to the province of Pinar del Rio was about 4 hours.  Our driver/guide, Jorge, was awesome!  He was an English Professor before joining the tourism industry.  With such a large amount of professors (and doctors, nurses and lawyers!) in Cuba, the salary for the profession is so low these days that it’s forcing those who are able to look elsewhere for career options.  After working for an international cruise line for a few years and traveling to more countries than I’ve ever dreamed of, Jorge was able to purchase a car with some of his savings and start his own business as a tour driver.  We were told by a few budding entrepreneurs that about 5 years ago President Castro realized that on some jobs there were close 20 people doing the job of one person,  he made sweeping lay-offs, and the government began to allow more and more Cubans to start their own businesses.  Of course, a pretty large portion of their earnings go to the government (taxes?), but it’s a start.



Farm Owner/Host

 

 

Jorge Tour Guide/Driver

Having Jorge as a guide was such a pleasure.  While he is from Havana, he knows Vinales Valley very well.  He also loves visiting with his family whenever he can.  It was he and his wife’s 13th wedding anniversary the weekend after our day trip there, and he told us that he’d planned to go back with his family for a couple of days.  Jorge’s English was excellent (former English professor), so he was able to explain a lot about the region to us, and to answer the million questions that I had.  With such an action-packed day, this post will focus on the tobacco farm (la finca).



En route to Vinales

 

 
 

Upon our arrival to the farm, we wandered around and took in the beautiful green scenery until the tourist couple ahead of us finished getting their cigar making education.  While waiting, we picked and ate guava fruit, met the 87 year-old farm owner (my favorite!) who picked peeled and served us green oranges (I’d never had one before.  It looked like an unripened grapefruit and tasted like a sweet lime!) .  He strolled around the farm with such swagger and ease.   He was slim and tanned and had such a gracious way about him.  A Cuban cowboy.

 When it was our turn, we entered the cigar-rolling room for our tutorial with Anuvys Gonzalez.  Like his grandfather, Anuvys was so proud of his work.  He took his time and taught us all about the production of the cigars, from seed to stick.  I’d brought along 2 gift bags filled with toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and the like, to give to the gracious people of Vinales that I’d grown so found of on my previous trips to the country.  These small tokens could never show our hosts how grateful I was for their time, education and friendliness.

 
Tobacco Leaves




Honey for Dipping the Cigar Tips
 

  
Packaged to Sell Directly From the Farm