Just off of 8th Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard Medardo Aguilera, also known by his nom de guerre “El Viandero,” sells a variety of fruits and vegetables out of his truck parked under the shade of an oak tree. Coco Frío, calabaza, banana, fruta bomba are all on display. A man pulls up in his car; salsa music can be heard playing on the radio as he rolls down his window. El Viandero leans in with an inquisitive look and, almost, a smile.
El Viandero is one of many vendors that operate out of small trucks alongside 8 Street. His work ethos is informed by a combination of his own business sense and desire for freedom as well as the creativity that he learned to cultivate as a young orphan growing up in Oriente, Cuba.
If one thing is certain it is that El Viandero knows how to handle a coco. His instrument is a machete. The machete was the weapon of choice for Cuba’s liberator, Antonio Maceo. One of his battle cries, “un tiro y al machete,” one shot and then the machete, refers to the need to economize bullets and Cubans’ talent for solving problems on the spot with ingenuity. This creative solution in action is referred to as the ability to – resolver.
With the machete, El Viandero displays this resourcefulness. He creates a small Cuban spoon, una cuchara cubana, as he calls it, with the outer edge of the coconut with which to peel away the softer skin on the inside once the refreshing water has been sipped. This is a trick he learned as a boy in Cuba, where invention was abundant even under the shade of the Coconut Palms.
In a city where many live day-to-day and work hard to meet the opportunities that find them, El Viandero is putting his ingenuity to work while his coconuts float on ice.
Words by: Catalina Ramirez
Photos by: Leticia de Mello Bueno