Mule Drivers in Cuba

Text and Photos by Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, May 30 – Mule drivers are people who haul goods from the hills to the plains, or vice versa. You can see one with from two up to ten mules, depending on the load or work they’re carrying out.

The mule is rugged and able to carry its loads along paths that even people find hard to travel. The drivers use mules, over horses for instance, because of their low center of gravity, short legs, they are very muscular and hold up well on long treks on broken mountainous terrain.

The mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse (strictly a male donkey and a female horse) and is typically sterile.

In Cuba, mule drivers and their caravans are seen mainly in the country’s three largest mountainous ranges the Sierra Maestra, Escambray and Sierra del Rosario.

Harvest season is when they can most often be seen transporting their loads into town.  These loads consist primarily of coffee, but to a lesser degree they also haul other products, such as root vegetables, palm fruits used for pig feed, coconuts, wood for sale on the market, as well as small utilitarian artisan’s products.

The trip is double-tracked and has a dual purpose as the drivers make their purchases in town before returning to their families in the mountains.

Being a mule driver was an occupation that – like the mule – was about to fade into oblivion because it was thought that they were no longer needed, given the development of transportation in mountain areas.

However, life has demonstrated that they are part of a tradition that will continue for many years to be part of these remote communities.

Click on the thumbnails to see all the photos in this gallery

5 thoughts on “Mule Drivers in Cuba

  • Can anyone publish a contact for mules and agriculture in Cuba?

  • I am going to Cuba very soon. I have an interest in agriculture and mules and would love to arrange a trek with experienced mulemen.

  • Extraordinary animals, and as a Cuban it would be strange nto seeing them. However, the mule unlike the horse can travel terrains like the sierra like no animal ever and living in the US they are not as loved or appreciated. i am just so proud of my country, it is getting better

  • Thanks for the story and fotos, Elio! Wish I had had a mule to carry gear during my “end-to-end” of the Long Trail (263 miles–Canadian border to Williamstown, Massachusetts) back in the early 1990’s!

  • Elio Delgado

    I loved the story and the fotos. I want to visit Cuba as soon as it is legal.

    It would be fun to see the backcountry as well and the beaches and the rest of Cuba.


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