Marcel Hatch in the Pearl of the Caribbean
Marcel was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1954, and grew up in Priest Lake, Idaho. He moved to Canada in 1983, and currently spends much of his time in Havana.
In his own words.
From 1991 to 1996, I served as a volunteer press correspondent for the Pastors for Peace Caravan. Its objective was to break the horrible US economic blockade of the island. In 1997, I organized the Canadian contingent of the International Feminist Brigade to Cuba. On my first trip to the island I witnessed an entire people affirming principles of social justice, dignity and equal rights. It was profoundly transformative and I was hooked. I returned home with the conviction to assist others to encounter Cuba. This is how Zunzun Education Services came about.
Graciella Quiñones in Super, Natural British Columbia
Graciella was born in 1977 and raised in Havana, Cuba. She moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 2008 with her husband and two children.
In her own words.
Learning languages was always my passion and is what led me to study English at the University of Havana’s Facultad de Lenguas Extranjeras FLEX (Foreign Language Faculty).
After completing my studies in 2002, I joined the Instituto de Artes e Industria Cinematográficos ICAIC (Cuban Film Institute). I worked as an event planner in its Department of International Relations for four years.
Being at ICAIC helped me to cultivate my other passion: movies. I had the opportunity to meet film industry personalities from around the world. I served on the International Jury at the 35th Tampere International Short Film Festival in Finland, one of the oldest and largest in Northern Europe. What an honor and pleasure!
In 2008 I came to Canada with my husband and my two children to start a new life in rainy Vancouver. While I love my new evergreen city, I miss the warmth of my homeland.
Being part of the Cuba Explorer team gives me the opportunity to be closer to Cuba in a very gratifying way. I feel I am making a difference. It’s like we are a family on a mission: bringing the people of Cuba and the rest of the world closer together.
I love film, music of all kinds, dancing, reading, painting, cooking, learning about other cultures, and, like every good Cuban, playing dominos.
Lilian Estévez Cabezas in the Sunshine State
Lilian was born in 1987 in La Habana, Cuba. She moved to Edmonton, Alberta with her mother and brother in 2002. In 2007 she moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. Today she lives in Miami and works as a travel consultant specializing in Cuba travel.
In her own words.
I moved to Canada when I was fifteen years old with my mother and younger brother. After a few years of living in Edmonton, I decided to move to Vancouver. I fell in love with the beauty of the city the first time I saw it. I consider myself to be very fortunate to be here.
Even though I enjoy living in Vancouver, Cuba will always be my home. I love and miss the tropical weather, the vibrant culture, and the stunning natural environment. The number one thing I missed the most about Cuba is the people in it. The vibrancy and kindness they possess are incomparable. They are the most hospitable people in the world and share everything they have even though they do not have a lot.
My passion for Cuba has led me to study Hospitality Management at Vancouver Community College. I am thrilled to be a part of the tourism industry and acquire more knowledge about cultures around the world. I love that it gives me the opportunity to build new friendships.
Working as a travel consultant with Zunzun Education Services helps me be part of the local Cuban community and stay connected to my homeland. It’s an honor to assist individuals from all over the world and welcome them in the Cuban culture.
Alden Mendoza in the Evergreen State
Alden was born in central Cuba in 1986 and migrated to North America in 2013. Alden lives and works in Seattle as a Cuba travel consultant.
In his own words.
I was born in the city of Camagüey, “la Tierra de los Tinajones [the land of the earthenware pots],” an epithet describing its deep-rooted tradition of clay pottery that dates back to the aboriginal times.
I grew up in a poor neighborhood full of well-educated, hard-working and altruistic people. My birth city has countless traditions and mysticism, but most importantly it has been and still is one of Cuba’s cultural powerhouses and, since 2009, has enjoyed UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
At the age of seven I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do in my life. I wanted to become one of Cuba’s top interpreters and translators. Foreign languages have always been my cup of tea. I pursued that dream and earned my BA in French and German languages at the prestigious Foreign Language School of Havana University. After I graduated, I never went back to my hometown nor became a translator. Instead, I stayed in the most vibrant, appealing and charming city I’ve ever known: Havana, the city I grew strongly attached to over my years in college.
Feeling so proud of the beauty of Havana, my heritage, culture, history and country, I realized I wanted to repurpose my profession to let the world know about the charms of my homeland. I became a tour guide at the culture and history focused travel agency San Cristóbal, part of the Havana’s Office of the Historian of the City. In three years there I gained extraordinary experience regarding the history, architecture and values of Havana and other founding colonial villages. I worked hand-in-hand with people from all over the world, but predominantly with visitors from the United States.
I moved to America in 2013 and continued my mission to teach about Cuba. While in Cuba I worked with Zunzun Education Services as a tour guide and knew they conducted amazing well-organized trips to the island. When the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance to assist them in Seattle doing what I know best: Cuba!
I feel blessed to work with Zunzun because its dedication to help make friendships between Americans and Cubans is as strong as mine.
Sairí Alvarez in Marvelous Miami
Sairí was born and raised in Havana in 1981. Today she lives in Miami with her husband and son.
In her own words.
My lifelong passion has been humanities and from my early years I oriented my career towards the social sciences.
I graduated from the University of Havana Law School in 2004 and three years later had the honor to serve as a legal advisor for Cubanacan. It’s the largest Cuban travel agency hosting the highest number of international visitors to the island. My work for Cubanacan was a life-changing experience. While at there I acquired a deep understanding and knowledge of the intricacies of Cuban tourism industry.
In 2013 I started working for the specialty Cuban travel agency San Cristóbal, which focuses on cultural, historical and educational tourism. San Cristóbal is Cuba Explorer’s island partner. I was responsible for establishing Cuba Explorer’s legal and physical presence in Cuba. For three years I served as the agency’s operations manager and staff director at its headquarters located in Old Havana’s Plaza San Francisco de Asís in the historical Lonja del Comercio building.
Afterwards I moved to the United States, to the beautiful city of Miami! Here I continue my work with Cuba Explorer as it chief designer of custom Cuba tours for schools and large private groups.
Today I have the pleasure to collaborate with hundreds of US-based educational institutions and private entities to prepare and plan tailored Cuba trips. This has become my new passion. My work helps thousands of Americans visit the country of my birth of which I remain immensely proud.
Nestor Zaldivar in Majestic Montréal Québec
Nestor was born and raised in Havana in 1984. Today he lives Montréal, Québec with his wife and daughter. Nestor, together with Jacqueline Hernandez manage our team of ten IT professionals.
In his own words.
I studied Computer Science at the University of Havana and became passionate about programming.
I love working in information technologies and always want to make a difference when doing it. I enjoy every day of my work with the IT group at Cuba Explorer and being part of this dynamic team gives me an opportunity to help in its mission to assist people from around the world to visit Cuba.
I love my family and spending time with them.
Jacqueline Hernandez in Magnificent Montréal
Jacqueline was born and raised in Havana in 1982. Today she lives in Montréal Québec with her husband and daughter. Jacqueline, together with Nestor Zaldivar manages our team of ten web programmers.
In her own words.
I obtained my degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Havana’s faculty of Technologies José Antonio Echeverría in 2005. Since that time I’ve worked continuously to advance in the fields web and application development.
Afterwards I started to work in Cuba’s tourism sector and I loved it from the beginning. It’s always a professional challenge. It has also taught me about my Cuba. I have learned so many different things that I never knew before – to appreciate the island’s beautiful nature, our culture and our talented people.
Moving to Montréal and becoming part of the IT Team of Cuba Explorer has been like becoming part of a bigger family keeping me close to my beloved Cuba. It has given me the opportunity to help bring Cuba to the world.
Personally I love nature, to read a good book and to spend time with my family.