Meet Tania & Tatica from Cuba

Meet Tania & Tatica from Cuba
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Meet Tania and Tatica our hosts in Vinales, Cuba. This heartwarming Cuban couple owns a “Casa Particular” and hosts tourists in their hometown of Vinales, Cuba.

As part of our Meet series, we always like to ask local people on our trips to share their stories and experience with travel.

We stayed with them for a few days during our trip to Cuba (check out our Youtube video below to see what we did in Vinales).

Travelling is all about learning. One of the best ways to learn is from the locals of the country you are visiting. They share stories, and opinions, and give you a better glimpse of daily life in that country.

Concept of Casas Particulares

You can find more about the concept of homestays or “Casas Particulares” in our Youtube video and the upsides of staying in one. Essentially, local Cubans that are able to have separate rooms next to their houses, make these available to tourists in exchange for a small fee (usually available on Airbnb). The owners of “Casas Particulares” act as Hosts, Tour guides, and Travel agents, all in one with the additional Cuban flare.

Our experience with Tania & Tatica – Casa Corazon

After a 3h drive from Havana, we arrived hot and sweaty. It was a burning afternoon and we were greeted with big smiles, warm eyes, and welcoming homemade juices.

Tatica showed us around and Tania sat us down. She offered us a drink, introduced us to her mom, and shared all about them and their kids, who were in Brazil at this point. After arranging a horseback activity for us that same afternoon, we enjoyed a 2-hour conversation that flew by. The honesty and willingness to share and help us with everything were things that stayed with us during our whole trip.

Without a doubt, Tania & Tatica were the best hosts we had during our trip to Cuba. They will share everything they have and don’t have with their guests. We are super happy we had the opportunity to stay with them and to share their story with you. We hope you consider staying with them – Casa Corazon – if you plan on travelling to Cuba! Airbnb Link to book a stay with them (not sponsored)

Tell us about you and your family

Currently, there are three people living at Casa Corazòn: my husband Francisco (Tatica, as we affectionately call him), my mother Ucha, and I, Tania. We were born in Cuba, my mother was born 15 years before Fidel Castro “won”, and we grew up already during the Revolution. We were born in the Province of Pinar del Rio, where Vinales is located and we grew up here. We’ve been living here all our lives, without many radical changes. 

We recently celebrated our 25 years of marriage and we are so proud to have been together for this long. We have a great family, where we support each other through adversity and hard times. Our two children, a boy who’s 23 years old and a girl who’s 20 are studying in Brazil at the moment. They are excellent students and are committed to finishing their Medicine and Biotechnology degrees. 

Growing up in Cuba is hard because you lack a lot of things, and scarcity is common.  This affects their creative capacity, and this is why it propelled them to take the step of leaving this beautiful island for a better life.

Tell us about growing up in Cuba during the “Special Period”

To give you some context, the so-called “Special Period or Período Especialis the name Cubans give to the ten years (1991-2000) that were marked by a national economic crisis. Honestly, it was difficult to bear each day during those years. I (Tania) was finishing High school, about to get into university and study Pharmacy. We lacked basic resources: bad public transportation and declining national infrastructure suffocated everyone.

We were a large family and my mother carried all that weight, which was not easy to carry because it was difficult even to get a piece of bread to feed us. For my husband (Francisco), it was quite similar (very few Cubans were able to escape the crisis). He was already a very “lived” man, serving 2 years in Angola’s Civil War (joining the army was mandatory at the time) at 17 years old.

He knew what it was like to fight to survive and the special period demanded precisely that. The years passed, and with the turn of the century, the situation improved. Currently, the Cuban economy, which never fully recovered after the Special Period, is declining again. But the scenario we witnessed in the 1990s is not repeating itself, despite this. We are more educated people, less “blind” and more aware.

How did Casa Corazon start?

Tatica and I have worked for a long time in the state’s pharmaceutical sector, directly linked to our academic training. However, our wages were never enough to support a family of 5 (us, our 2 children, and my mom). We needed another source of income. Our children went to study at one of the best pre-university schools in the country and the cost for this was quite high.

For this reason, we decided to open the doors of our house to people interested in getting to know our region, convinced that we could be a “useful bridge” between foreigners and Cuba. In this way, Casa Corazón was born in December 2015, and until today it has filled us with joy, satisfaction, and affection.

What is your favourite part about having tourists or foreigners at your place?

Our favourite part is keeping in touch with our guests. We love receiving news periodically from the people we receive one day. And we are proud that a few hours shared with great affection are able to provide us with such a strong bond despite the cultural and geographical distance. It is wonderful to know that our love today is in many parts of the world.

What are the places that in your opinion, a visitor to Vinales cannot miss?

Viñales is a beautiful municipality, full of life but surprisingly very quiet. We generally recommend a minimum stay of three days to experience the wonders it has to offer. It is essential to visit the Mirador del Hotel Los Jazmines, to contemplate the iconic view of Valle de Viñales, declared a National Heritage Site and by UNESCO, a World Heritage Site.

Other attractions are the Mural of Prehistory, the Municipal Museum, Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens, the Valley of Silence, El Palenque de los Cimarrones, the town of Los Acuáticos, and the nearby caves (Cueva del Indio, Cueva de José Miguel, Great Cave of Santo Tomás).

What do you like about Cuba and being Cuban? What are the challenges you face?

Cuba is a very quiet country, with a peculiar beauty that dazzles many. Fraternity, affection, and hospitality reign in our society. The national culture is very rich, loaded with autochthonous elements despite the marked Spanish influence in our history. However, a challenging task is presented to us every day: not allowing economic difficulties to corrupt our social essence. We must move away from competitive, unsympathetic, alienating positions.

What would you say to tourists that come to Cuba for the first time?

For people who visit Cuba for the first time, especially Viñales, I assure you that it will be an enriching experience, which will hardly be forgotten due to the region’s extreme peculiarity and natural beauty. Viñales is a natural paradise, and the Cuban people are warm and welcoming.

We want to thank Tania & Tatica for hosting and welcoming us into their home and lives. We really enjoyed the conversations and laughter that we shared, and we hope we will meet each other again in the future, either in Europe or in South America. 

Thank you Tania & Tatica for sharing your story with us!

Do you enjoy our meet section as much as we do? Why don’t you Meet Chan! or Meet Marina!