Exiled Cuban Businessmen Come to Havana for Its Horses / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on February 22, 2015
Juan Juan Almeida, 18 February 2015 — The horse — like the language and
guitar — were brought to Cuba from Spain and are today a part of the
national culture. It is impossible to forget the role the animal has
played in Cuban literature, music and the economy. And history
discussions would be incomplete without some mention of Mambisa
The Cuban Revolution, however, marked a turning point in the development
of equine culture. Shortly after 1959 Isidious (Fidel Castro’s white
horse), Azbache (the same owner’s black horse) and other thoroughbreds
which were beautiful regardless of color were shipped to the Managua
breeding facility located next to a tank base of the same name on the
outskirts of Havana. The rationale was that on their backs the animals
bore the symbolic sweat of their owners’ buttocks and, therefore, had to
be protected with the same vigilance as any national treasure.
But as we now know, these national treasures perished. Insidious died of
a heart attack and Azabache (either because he was beautiful or because
he was black) had his image stamped onto a photograph which, like a
majordomo, greets generals and tourists at the entrance to the
It was then that the historic, aesthetic and hysterical leader, saddened
by the loss of his steed, authorized the importing of twelve different
breeds of horses from which to select his Bucefalo, encourage the
breeding of horses, export them overseas either as animals or semen, and
crossbreed them with local stock.
As a result, horse breeding took off and today the country can boast of
more than 300,000 thoroughbreds scattered among various farms. Most are
managed by a state conglomerate, Flora and Fauna, under the direction of
the Revolutionary commandant Guillermo García Frías. Some are raised on
Cuban plantations such as El Alacazar — located in Contrammaestre,
Santiago de Cuba — which is owned by Señora María Antonia Puyol Bravo
(known as La Doña).
Horses are exported in a prescribed manner. From El Alcazar, come
purebred Spanish horses. From Escaleras de Jaruco (in Mayabeque
province), there are also Spanish thoroughbreds. From the Belen farm an
American breed, Morgan, is exported. From Rancho San Vicente (20
kilometers south of the city of Camaguey) they are Arabian purebreds.
From Guatiba (Matanzas province) there are Creole pintos. From
Escambray come Appaloosas. And from Rancho Azucacero (Artemesia
province) come jumping and show horses that have been imported from
Holland since 2005. These are auctioned off at the Equestrian Club in
Lenin Park’s riding school during the Remate Élite Habana, which takes
place every year in the Cuban capital.
There is talk of a trail of tainted money behind the scenes at the
auction, but no one has been able to prove it much less conduct an
audit. Cuba’s problem is not corruption but the immunity of certain
corrupt officials who — as one might expect — are so high up that they
are beyond the judicial reach of the comptroller general.
Every January more and more foreigners attend this event, which this
year attracted exiled Cuban businessmen, who were much more interested
in showing off their lifestyles than indulging their newfound passion
Far be it from me to judge but I know that — as my grandmother used to
say — “crises are moments of great opportunity” and these compatriots
travelled to Cuba to defend, in their own way, the right of every Cuban
to own his or her own horse.
18 February 2015
Source: Exiled Cuban Businessmen Come to Havana for Its Horses / Juan
Juan Almeida | Translating Cuba –