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JULIO MU OZ COCINA. COMMANDER


OF HIS OWN DESTINY


In socialist Cuba, entrepreneurs were discouraged in favor of workers motivated by the common good. Today, self-employment is back in vogue as Cuban entrepreneurs follow both their passions and personal interests in build- ing a strong, diverse economy. Julio Muñoz Cocina epitomizes this


trend. In 1995, when private room rentals for tourists were legalized, the for- mer electronic engineer repaired his 18th-century home on Cuba’s southern coast and opened it as a casa particular (bed-and-breakfast). When restrictions allowing only two rooms were lifted in 2011, Julio added a third room and a duplex. “Next I’m going to build deluxe suites for Americans,” he adds, unfurling plans for four rooms to be built above the family quarters.


“Owning a casa particular is like going back to university,” he adds in regard to the diversity of ideas and interests he’s encountered through visiting guests. National Geographic photographer


David Harvey, for example, inspired Julio to pursue photography. He explored Cuba with new eyes and a new camera, and now offers workshops for tourists. “I wanted to photograph campesi-


nos—farmers—but my Moskovitch kept getting stuck in mud,” Julio says. “So


I borrowed a friend’s horse and fell in love with horses, too.” He now owns seven horses. He disappears into the patio and, mo- ments later, leads a horse into the house by the reins. “I have a license to offer horseback rides also,” he says. Proof, indeed, that five decades of Fidelismo hasn’t killed Cuba’s entrepre- neurial spirit.


JOS RODR GUEZ FUSTER. VIVACIOUS SPIRIT ON DISPLAY


In his whimsical Elton John–style


spectacles, Fuster appears as zany as the art that surrounds him. He’s wearing only bathing trunks, with a glass of neat añejo rum in one hand and a girlfriend in the other. He plants a kiss on my cheek as I enter his home-cum-studio-gallery. “To life…and love!” he says, raising his glass. Ceramist. Painter. Sculptor. Cuba’s


eternally joyful “Picasso of the Caribbe- an” profiles the quintessential Cuba in his naïve, childlike art. Surreal ceramic figures, many full


of Santería symbolism and Catholic mythology, dominate the decor. There are domino players, rum-swilling campesi- nos, crocodiles and cockerels. His vibrant pieces spill out past his front gate to


adorn the façades of his neighborhood. Walking the streets is a magical mystery tour of fanciful and colorful folk-art fig- ures—testament to an ongoing, two-de- cade-old beautification project in Havana’s humble seaside suburb of Jaimanitas. A people’s artist and loyal revolution-


ary, Fuster, now 68, was inspired by his time in 1961 as a participant in the Cuban Literacy Campaign in the Sierra Maestra. From his rooftop, I spy a row of water


tanks atop an apartment block, each adorned with a letter to spell out “Viva Cuba.” “I’m completely crazy,” he tells me, smirking. “No,” I think to myself. “You’re Cuban.”


Vivacious and brimming with expres- sions of love.


800.200.3887 CLASSIC JOURNEYS 45


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