There is something innately entrepreneurial in the human spirit. Nowhere is that more evident than in post-revolutionary Cuba, where small businesses are thriving as government restrictions on commerce continue to loosen. Quite literally turning his home into his castle, Julio Munoz Cocina is becoming the master of his own destiny.
JULIO MUÑOZ COCINA
Commander of His Own Destiny
In socialist Cuba, entrepreneurs were discouraged in favor of workers motivated by the common good. Today, self-employment is back in vogue as Cuban entrepreneurs follow both their passions and personal interests in building a strong, diverse economy.
Julio Muñoz Cocina epitomizes this trend.
In 1995, when private room rentals for tourists were legalized, the former electronic engineer repaired his 18th-century home on Cuba’s southern coast and opened it as a casa particular (bed-and-breakfast).
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When restrictions allowing only two rooms were lifted in 2011, Julio added a third room and a duplex. “Next I’m going to build deluxe suites for Americans,” he adds, unfurling plans for four rooms to be built above the family quarters.
“Owning a casa particular is like going back to university,” he adds in regard to the diversity of ideas and interests he’s encountered through visiting guests.
National Geographic photographer David Harvey, for example, inspired Julio to pursue photography. He explored Cuba with new eyes and a new camera, and now offers workshops for tourists.
“I wanted to photograph campesinos—farmers—but my Moskovitch kept getting stuck in mud,” Julio says. “So I borrowed a friend’s horse and fell in love with horses, too.”
He now owns seven horses.
He disappears into the patio and, moments later, leads a horse into the house by the reins.
“I have a license to offer horseback rides also,” he says.
Proof, indeed, that five decades of Fidelismo hasn’t killed Cuba’s entrepreneurial spirit.