In the summer of 2010, my group had just begun a hike through the gorgeous mogotes and tropical farms of Cuba’s Viñales Valley when we saw a farmer in the distance, tending to his tobacco crop. A little while later, we met him as he walked along the path with two bulls.
His mouth was wrapped around a cigar and his soul shone through his flickering eyes. He seemed like a solitary man who had few words but many stories to tell. The farmer stopped to chat with our guide who seemed to know most of the people in the Viñales Valley. He was very keen on posing for some photos before he got back to his work.
I saw this man again in 2013. I’d like to say that I went back to Cuba, but I didn’t. I saw him again in a photograph while I was looking at pictures taken by a Japanese traveler I met in in Laos in 2008.
I was marveling at how often Cuba feels the same in images as it does in person when I came across a close-up of this man’s familiar face, his mouth still wrapped around a cigar, the same kind of hat on his head and the same kind of shirt that made me wonder if he was a revolutionary in another life. And those same proud, dancing eyes.
How amazing it was to see that someone I met in Southeast Asia over five years ago who lives thousands of miles away from me encountered the same person in the quiet Cuban countryside a couple years after me. It’s grand to think that each time we put ourselves out in the big wide world, we open ourselves up to the possibilities of serendipity and lessen the degrees that separate us from the rest of humanity.