Supporting The Cuban People Through Travel: Meet ElioAugust 25, 2020
"Thanks to travelers visiting Cuba, I have been able to fulfill my dreams of working as a dance teacher."
Talent, passion and resilience can be found across the entire island of Cuba. However, craftsmen, artists, farmers, developers and all types of skilled workers often face challenges due to scarce resources. The influx of travel in recent years has created new opportunities for the Cuban people, allowing many to pursue their passions and grow their own businesses.
At Cuba Candela, our trips empower local communities in Cuba and support private businesses. We’ve made a commitment to ensure that each trip booked with us directly supports more than 30 Cuban entrepreneurs. The places you shop, restaurants you dine in and unique experiences on your itinerary are directly contributing to supporting the Cuban people.
To better understand the ways in which our trips support and empower the people of Cuba, we talked to Elio, a private salsa teacher in Havana who teaches many of our guests.
CUBA CANDELA: What did you do before you worked with travelers?
Elio: Before working with visitors to Cuba, I was a social worker. I worked with family members who had lost a loved one and cared for older adults trying to improve their quality of life.
What are you passionate about?
Elio: I am passionate about dancing and music. I also like to sing.
How has American travel to Cuba impacted you?
Elio: Thanks to travelers visiting Cuba, I have been able to fulfill my dreams of working in a travel agency as a dance teacher. I can teach you basic principles so that you can dance. Through this travel company – I achieved my biggest dream, to have my own house. It is currently being built and is almost finished.
Why do you think it is important for people to visit Cuba and engage with locals?
Elio: It is very important for travelers to visit Cuba because it is a country that has a lot to offer. We have African culture, beautiful places, classic cars and the magnificent architecture of ancient times. It is also important for travelers to understand Cubans so that they better understand where our joy comes from.
When asked about his favorite memory working with CUBA CANDELA travelers, Elio told us this:
“I’ve met many travelers from the United States, but one that stands out is a traveler who was closed off and anxious, but slowly left their worries behind as they began dancing. As the traveler danced, people who watched cheered them on.”
Elio’s story reveals the power of travel and its ability to create opportunities for individuals to pursue their goals and passions. Not only has Elio opened his own private dance studio where he shares his love of dance and music with others, but he has also built his own home.
Through our conversation with Elio, we are also reminded of how authentic interactions with locals enrich our experience and foster meaningful connections. Travelers often walk away from our trips with a better understanding of Cuba and her people focusing more on what unites us than makes us different.
Elio has left a mark on our travelers:
“The highlights were the Art Museum (most informational insight into the island’s history), the salsa lesson (we were all dreading it but ended up loving it), the rooftop mojitos with live music (my personal favorite) and the early morning trip to an empty Playas Del Este.”Joshua D.
“We particularly loved the welcome drinks, the rumba lesson (and the salsa lesson later with Elio – as well as dancing that night!)”Amy A.
“We left the Rumba to learn Salsa at a studio run by Elio a dancer who (very patiently) coached my husband and me in this “simple” dance step.”
“Our itinerary was filled with amazing restaurants, Hemingway house tour, vintage car tour of Havana, a taste of the amazing Cuban art scene… salsa lessons, & the best part- being welcomed into Cuban people’s homes with open arms, listening to their stories.”Michelle D.
Interested in learning more about the Cuban people we work with? Meet María Laura García, founder of Cuban fashion brand El Encanto Atelier.