Eduardo - "I used to work for the Government, in a big factory, and I was earning 12 CUC per month"
We visited Viñales after New Year's in Havana, to visit the famous valley and famous the tobacco plantations. Eduardo took us around the valley on his horse car.
1. What is your name, where do you come from and what do you do for living?
I’m a guide that takes the tourists to see the Viñales Valley by horse. And if I have some free time I help my family up in the mountains, they live half an hour away.
My family is part of the “Los Acuaticos” who are known for using water to cure any diseases or health problems they might have. They don’t take any medicine or go to the doctor, ever! My grandfather is 84 years old and never went to a doctor. For example, if they have a headache, what they do is drink the water from the mountain and use it to cleanse themselves. Before, Los Acuáticos used to be a small village with 11 or 12 houses, now there are only 2, my family’s and another one. Many people go to work everyday in the mountains but don’t live there, they came down to where there’s electricity.
I used to work for the Government, in a big factory, and I was earning 12 CUC per month (12€), but it wasn’t enough for me. The problem is that if a Cuban wants to drink one of those beers that tourists drink, or rum, they have to pay the same as a foreigner. So now, with this job, I earn a little bit more.
2. What advice would you give to someone like us that just arrived here?
If people come to Viñales, I tell them that the most important thing to do is to do an excursion to the valley, either on a horse or by foot. Another good thing to do is to visit the beach in Cayo Jutías, which is very beautiful and doesn’t have that many people. And at night there is a good bar in Viñales village called Polo Montañero, it’s the best place do dance some salsa. This isn’t like Havana, it’s very safe, people can leave the bar at 2/3 in the morning and not worry about walking on the street.
Also, foreigners should know that in Cuba everything works on a commission basis. For example, if I’m at home and not working and a taxi driver calls me with a job, if I do it I will have to share the profit with him, usually 50-50%. You always have to share with the person that gave you the job.
3. What would you say is your favourite food?
My favourite restaurant is a pizza place called “La del barrio”. This is where I usually go with my friends, or for my birthday. But my favourite food it’s the typical cuban, the chicken with rice and “frijoles” (beans). The best homemade food you can find is in the “casas particulares”, they always cook delicious dishes especially for you. Anyway, Cubans usually have dinner in other houses, in my case I live alone, so I always eat at my sister’s house or at my aunt’s.
I live in a house that I bought with my dad’s help. He lives in Miami. It cost me around 8000 pesos (8000 euros) but only because I did all the necessary works myself, otherwise it would have cost around 70.000. My father helps the family a lot from Miami, but it took him 6 months to get there, he had to go to Russia first, then France, then Mexico and only after he managed to reach the US. Unfortunatelly, I still haven’t been able to visit him, it’s really hard for Cubans to travel.
All photos by @michael_malina
4. What’s your favourite place here?
Viñales. Anywhere in Viñales I’m happy. I feel relaxed when I’m in the countryside, with the horses. If I have to go to Havana for a day it feels like a month to me. There are too many people, it’s too messy. But anyway, I’ve only been in La Habana, Matanzas and Varadero, I don’t know the rest of the country.
5. What would be the perfect Sunday afternoon plan?
When I’m off work I like to play football or baseball, and many times, when I have nothing else to do, I take one of the horses, call my friends, and go somewhere relaxed to have some beers and hang out.
6. What makes you happy?
For me the most important thing is to have a good health and some money to be able to go out and enjoy some good times with friends or a girlfriend. I could take medicine but I’m 30 years old and never had to go to a doctor, I prefer to live like the Acuáticos.
Carnival is also a very happy moment in Viñales. There are parties for 5 days in a row, starting in the morning until the day after, everyone goes out to the streets and wears traditional costumes and there’s music everywhere. There are bands coming from Havana, from the smallest to the most famous, everyone comes to Viñales. It’s also when I see friends that I haven’t seen for a very long time so every year I save money for this event, so I can have fun with my friends.
7. Do you feel there's a lot of crime in your hometown?
I think Cuba is a very safe country. Maybe in Havana you may hear some crime stories but here in Viñales is very relaxed. You might see people fighting on the street sometimes, but that’s about it. I’m sure Viñales is one of the safest places in Cuba. In other provinves of Cuba the horses and bulls cannot sleep out in the open so easily, they would be taken, but here it’s okay. If you walk on the valley by yourself and ask someone for help, they will always help you.
8. What would you like to ask our next host?
Where do you think is the most peaceful place on Earth?