We aim to create more awareness of the impact that travelling has on local communities in Cuba – how true connections can lead to ‘mutual learning’ and also that travelling provide benefits both socially and economically.
Here we share with you a personal story of how travelling becomes meaningful:
“Sí se puede – yes, it is posible !”
Meet Alianki, our bicitaxero who has been working with us from the very start. A bicitaxero is the driver of a bicycle taxi, which is a type of transportation for two people. Alianki tells us his success story, how, after seven years he has grown as a person, and the impact tourism has had on his life.
Tell us more about your life before…
“I had the type of job which was very hard work, and I didn’t earn enough to make a living. Then I saw the possibility to start to rent a bicitaxi and work independently, driving people around. It really helped to be able to survive better on a daily basis. This was around seven years ago and when I heard about the bici-tour, I wanted to be part of this project.”
Why did you feel that you wanted to be part of it?
“This bici-tour is about real life in Cuba. A lot of the amigos who visit Cuba learn more about the historical part and don’t see the way we live our day-to-day lives. I also learn about the way that they live over there, like differences about how we feel about work or how we relate to our families.””
How did you get on your first bici-taxi?
“I first started to rent a bici-taxi, as I didn’t have the money to buy one. Thanks to a continuous workflow with these tours, I saved enough to buy one. A new bici-taxi now costs around 10,000 – 15,000 pesos in moneda nacional, which is around 400 to 600 CUC. But when I bought mine, it was more expensive, around 800 CUC. Now it’s cheaper as the demand has dropped due to there being more motorcycles on the road. Before then, it was the only form of transportation.”
Could you tell us more about your family-situation before?
“My daughter now is three years old. Before I had this job, I couldn’t even dream about providing for my family. I still lived with my mother together with my brothers and sisters, I did not have my own house. But when I started to have a regular income, I bought my own piece of land and started to build my house – I am still in construction. Poco a poco my life started to change…”
Looking back, did you imagine it would have changed your life in this way?
No, I could not imagine this. I am the type of person who wakes up every day with ideas about how I can work harder and do better. And when you have a child, you feel this urge even more. You also want to progress, and you want everyone to be happy. I always wake up at 6:00am and I could stay working if necessary until around 9:00-10:00pm.
Could you tell me about why you feel this urge more since having a child?
For example, my daughter and the way she sees that her father is always working hard. That things don’t just happen, you need to work for it. And that now I have a bici-taxi, I have a house. In the morning when I talk with her, she asks “daddy, where are you going?” and I respond, “where does papi go every day, to work”. I want her to know, that every morning you have to wake up with this mentality. That there are things in life you can achieve when you work hard.
Did you also get this mentality from your father?
No, my dad left us when I was young, and I always lived with my mom. When I was very young I also needed to help out, selling fruit or working in construction. I learned this by the time I was around 10 years old.
What was most difficult for you in this period of your life?
The most difficult… Well, I think it’s more about the mentality you have and how you achieve your goals. I think the basis is how you see yourself, and the way you are brought-up, like your first school education is your family. I never had my dad to guide me, I had to figure out what is good or bad by myself. And now, look at me (laugh), I never imagined owing a house, or having a child. But life gives your opportunities and by working hard you receive compensations. My friends at school always told me ‘you are so mature’, but when they left school, they would go to a home which had it all and I had to work for it.
Photo: The team
Tell me more about your mom…
As I didn’t have a father-figure, my mom has been a very important guide for me in life. Apart from that, this job has also educated me in taking more responsibility, seriousness of things. I didn’t have a normal childhood where I could always play. But this experience has shown that you are able to proceed in life by your own physical hard work. People talk and say, look at him he’s just 30 years old and look what he has achieved. Well, I actually am 30 but look like I am 40. That’s life.
So, the example that you want to give to your child is that you are able to create your own future?
Yes, exactly. When you are healthy and you work hard, everything can work out. Everyone in the world, not only in Cuba, when he or she wakes up, always has some kind of obstacle to overcome. Your body creates some kind of stress. I always tell myself ‘yo sí puedo, yo sí puedo, yo sí puedo’, I can overcome this. You have to have faith in yourself.
How did you get this positive mindset?
Through my mom, the way she looked at me and advised with me when I was young. She gave me the self-confidence and feeling of responsibility.
How does your well-being affect your community?
Well, I have created a better basis for daughter, and I also started to work with pigs. When I go to a celebration, I bring food. Those are the things I am able to do now. Well, it’s also interesting how this all has developed. We started this with one or two tours a week. Now I have a network of around 30 bicitaxeros, which I personally manage and train in ethics.
Some final words you would like to share?
I think that you should never tell yourself that you are not able to achieve something. Always: sí se puede. The negativity is not good for your body. You have to overcome obstacles and always think about how to continue. Apart from the love you give to your family, you have to educate your children in the working every day. Only then you can see the progress you can make in a lifetime. It’s like the phrase: things don’t just fall from the sky, only water (laughing).
Photo: The tour guide