By Maya Quiroga

Felix Arguelles
Felix Arguelles

HAVANA TIMES — Felix Arguelles is a licensed taxi driver. Seeing him at work, one would never suspect he studied 10 different foreign languages, let alone that he holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, history and economics.

Arguelles is a highly cultured man with a profound knowledge of Ernest Hemingway, being a passionate reader of the author of In Our Time and Green Fields of Africa.

Felix ArguelIes: I still have a lot to learn. Hemingway made a deep impression in me in junior and senior secondary school, the great man he was, intrepid, courageous and anti-fascist. He’s been a paradigm for me as a revolutionary.

The connections between Hemingway and Cuba are many. All of this has inspired me to study him in depth. Every year, I attend the conferences about his life to get to know him and his work better.

Arguelles, who was also a diplomat, a major at the Ministry of the Interior and university professor, explains how he came to be a taxi driver.

FA: At the end of all this, I went down the tourism road, first with Taxis OK and then with Cuba Taxi. I am now in the process of retiring, but I continue to offer taxi services with my own car. I have four kids and two grandchildren to maintain. As Lenin said: “The economy is, at root, the most important thing.” That’s why I became a taxi driver..

This taxi driver has an area of specialization, which he claims to be that of city tours.

FA: We drive around the city in my car. We tour Havana and the old town, and I offer tourists a geographical, economic, political and social summary of Cuba and its capital.

Felix-Arguelles-2I am also an expert on Hemingway matters. We visit the places in Cuba that this American novelist frequented. The tour includes an obligatory visit to his home, the Finca Vigia museum, to Cojimar, where he became inspired to write The Old Man and the Sea, the Ambos Mundos Hotel, his first place of residence in Cuba, from 1932 to 1939, La Bodeguita del Medio and El Floridita restaurants. The tour concludes with a visit to the Hemingway Marina.

Another of my areas of expertise are Cuban culture tours that include a visit to the National Fine Arts Museum, the Hamel alley (a reservoir of Afro-Cuban culture), Chinatown, the Colon cemetary, the buildings that are most representative of Havana’s different architectural styles (neo-classic, colonial, Art Nouveau and Art Deco).

Does Felix work with any agency?

FA: I work mainly with the different hotels that know of these tours and call me. Some satisfied customers recommend us to others and we are contacted directly also, through our website or email.

I generally work alone, but, when we have many customers, I rely on a group of 10 friends who are foreign language graduates with university degrees. They are all serious, decent and honest people.

All the while, Arguelles remains behind the wheel of his car. Every day, he makes his dream come true: to drive his taxi, talk about Hemingway, Cuban culture and, to top things off, get paid for it. What more could this Cuban taxi-driver want?


5 thoughts on “Felix Argüelles: A Cultured Taxi Driver

  • I was a Taxi Driver myself. It was a trade which everyone looked down upon. i studied the history of my island; The first two hundred dollars I made, I printed a booklet on the Tour of my island and I distributed a copy free of charge to every Taxi Driver in order to improve the quality of the service, for a Taxi Driver is an Ambassador for his country; he is he very first UN-official person the visitor comes in contact with. He gives the impression of the leaders and the inhabitants of the country. A Taxi Driver must bear a love, a commitment, a respect a bond, a loyalty, for his country. he can only sell his country if he is devoted to it. It is not the money made, but the advertisement of the country and its people. I salute my fellow Taxi Driver in Cuba and can empathize with the joy, the satisfaction, the contentment, he experienced in advertising his beloved country to others. The more educated the Taxi Driver is, the greater service as an Ambassador he can display and the more impressed the visitors will be. Congratulations Ambassador Felix Arguelles. Turn a deaf ear to the snide remarks made by those who see everything in dollars and cents. They are devoid of the inner joy, the inner satifaction of rendering unheralded, untrumpeted, satisfactory service to your country. I drove International Tourist Officials on Tours around my island free of charge in order to place my island on the International Tourist Map. Ambassador! Ambassador!..

  • First off, Cuba is changing for the better. Air B and B has created a venue for over 2,000 homes used for renting out rooms and that’s a pretty good chunk of change. I graduated from St. John’s U in 1971 and my first job was a NYC cab driver. It was poor hell and outside of picking up Mr. Rodgers, it was uneventful but dangerous. I made very little take home but paid the bills and vowed never to do that again. There are numerous restaurants, bars and discos that are now operating freely in Cuba and again, this trickles down to a few but better than five years ago. The glass is half full in my opinion.

  • Felix sounds like more of a personal tour guide than Taxi driver. It is a good take of the new Cuba, where individual business opportunity is making life better. Long road ahead before a man can earn up to his potential and keep a fair share.

  • Incredible that a person with such an education and life’s career has to taxi to support his four children and two grandchildren. The only good thing is that he can do it legally now whereas many before him had to taxi illegally on the side to survive.

  • There is a term used in economics called “highest and best use”. For the Cuban economy as a whole, is Sr. Argyle as taxi driver, the highest and best use of his talents? One of my best Cuban friends is a trained doctor……who works as a bartender in a popular bar in Havana because it pays better. The Castros’ socialist regime has perverted the Cuban workforce. Prostitutes earn more than scientists, butchers earn more than surgeons and lettered and cultured men like Argulles drive taxis.

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