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My First Jinetero

By: Lurker

 

 

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My First Jinetero

I first travelled to Cuba, just for curiosity. I flew in from the D.R.to Santiago, and when the taxi driver at the airport asked me where I wanted to go, I said, I don't know, you tell me!

He took me to a house on Avenida Pujol. The owner of the house was the widow of a man who used to own a small pimiento enterprise- he had 8 employees, and according to the widow, 6 of them had owned their own cars.

One of the people living in the house was Yakelin,an 18 year old mulatta who had been adopted into the family. Yakelin had a novio named Anton, who worked in the club on the top floor of the Hotel Santiago. Anton was a pretty successful Jinetero - cigars, ron, chicas. But his favorite business was giving taxi rides. Somehow Anton became the owner of a 50's era Buick and he spent almost all of his time working on his car. He loved his car so much that he would sleep in it every night- he said to protect it against thieves, but I think he wanted to see and smell his car the moment he woke up and every waking moment thereafter. Yakelin told me that at first she was jealous of the car but then she accepted the fact that Anton loved the car more than he loved her. Anyway, she had a few secret novios- both Cuban and extranjero.

Anton was the first person to show me around Santiago- always, of course, in his Buick. There was no fixed charge for riding around- I was buying all the food for the family where I was staying, plus giving them $100 a week, and I'm sure some of the money went back to Anton. I also would go out with Anton as needed and buy black market gasoline from any of the 20 or so gasoline thieves that Anton dealt with.

One day I asked if we could go to Gran Piedra. We started off O.K- I had to get out of the car before the police checkpoint near Sevilla and walk down the road and around the bend to where Anton and Yakelin could pick me up again, but I was already used to normal subterfuge. But when we started up the steep part of the hill, it was clear that the car wasn't going to make it. Anton was upset, because he had spent most of the morning bragging about his car, and now steam was fogging up the road so much that we couldn't even see where the curves were. We got out of the car, waited a few minutes, and when I got back into the driver's seat, Anton yelled at me for not noticing that my shoes were covered with sand and now I had gotten sand into his car. It was the only time I ever saw him lose his temper. We had a consolation lunch at a government run restaurant with a swimming pool off to the side- as usual, nobody else was there, because this was a little after the height of the special period and few people could waste money driving around to out of the way places.

A few months after I went home, I heard the news from Yakelin- Anton had been arrested for possesion of marijuana. It was the car that gave him away. Anton had covered the car windows with black see through tape, gangland style, so nobody would know what he was doing inside the car. I think he must have seen too many movies, or maybe he didn't understand that the black tape was an invitation for all the police to harass him. He was caught with 3 ounces of Sierra home grown, and sentenced to 12 years in prison! The only charge against him was possession- not illegal economic activity, not dangerousnous, not even disloyalty. When I went back to Cuba I sent him a note through Yakelin- I wanted to console him a little by saying that in all likelihood he wouldn't have to serve the full 12 years- the sentence was 12 years, or until el caballo se cayo. When the government fell, he would probably be released, along with over a thousand people in jail for possession of dollars, or for walking around with an American flag bandana, or for any of the other crimes that had already been repealed- people still in jail although they had been convicted of offenses that were no longer illegal.

Anton was imprisoned in 1995. Seven years of his 12 year sentence has already gone by, and he is still in Boniato Prison.

If you ever go to Santiago, I highly reccommend a restaurant that very few people know about- its called Puerto de Boniato. It's only 25 minutes or so from the center of the city.

 

 

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