“Andale, andale,” farmer Ramon Rodriguez commands his oxen as I hold onto their reins and worry whether the enormous beasts of burden will bolt. I might not know much Spanish but I can recognize cartoon character Speedy Gonzales’ command for “hurry up.”
Later I learn a speeding ox team is unlikely since the males are castrated, which makes them easier to control. I was also clueless to the conversation happening around me as Rodriguez asked a fellow journalist if he, too, was castrated.
I missed that machismo moment while concentrating on keeping the oxen on their muddy, well-beaten path, and being caught on video saying it’s “just a typical day in Cuba.”
But for Cuba’s 4.7 million annual visitors (one-third of them Canadians) leading an ox team through a sugar cane plantation is anything but typical. Most tourists come for the sandy beaches and remain secluded in all-inclusive resorts, ignoring the local culture.
This has been the norm since Cuba began welcoming tourists again almost 30 years ago.