Cuba Explorer mascot Cubita in Havana.

Cubita, forever chipper. Our soul mate and mascot.

Cuban puppy S.O.S.

Mascot of Cuba Explorer.

Meet Cubita, our gal pal, mascot and inspiration for Cuba Explorer’s original logo.

We were thrilled to welcome Cubita to our team in March 2011. We fell in love with her at first glance, and she with us. We couldn’t shake her or visa versa. She’s a fount of inspiration and companionship.
Her attributes are a kind demeanor, an upbeat attitude. She’s extra friendly. Her heritage embraces features of Cuban life and history spanning three millennia.

She was accidentally abandoned when her family, in the sleepy village of Colón in the province of Matanzas, moved to Ciego de Ávila for new employment. Fluke rendered Cubita without shelter and hungry – not on account of her former family’s ill intentions – she was nowhere to be found on moving day.

Cubita’s tale

Cuban guide Dannys Valido Hernández.
Tour guide Dannys Valido Hernández rescued Cubita from an uncertain fate.

When Cubita’s owners’ were all packed and their moving truck ready to roll, she was absent. The kids called out for her for several hours and delayed travel. Cubita didn’t respond. As darkness approached, the parents had no choice but to go. The truck was expensive, and every hour’s delay added to their costs. They lived on a meager stipend.

The children cried. The parents agonized. The family left no contact information with their neighbors. Perhaps someday we’ll locate them. We’re working on it. We’d sure like those kids to reconnect with their precious Cubita.

The neighbors begged us to adopt Cubita because they all had pets and weren’t able to take on another hungry mouth to feed. Our guide Dannys didn’t think twice, he hoisted Cubita into his arms. She gave him plenty of grateful licks. He rushed to get her some snacks (fried bananas and pork rinds were all available at the time). She scarfed them up. Dannys put her on our tour bus and took Cubita home with him to Havana.

Illustration of Cubita by Yoján Hernández Jiménez.
Tour guests adored Cubita and urged Dannys rescue her. Illustration Yoján Hernández Jiménez.

Cubita lives with Dannys and today Cubita is a big city dog. She fits in well as her natural colorings – a punkish orange-yellow topnotch and matching tail bob combined with an otherwise hairless beautiful blue-black look – makes her a canine fashion star among cosmopolitan pups and people alike.

About hairless dogs of the Americas

Ancient xoloitzcuintli dog sculpture.
Pre-Columbian ceramic vessel found in a royal burial chamber at Teotihuacan México (circa 500 CE). Thousands of Xolo skeletons and figurines have been exumed from ancient graves across México, but only a few in Cuba.

Cubita descends from one of only two domesticated dogs at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean islands and México. When Columbus arrived in Cuba in 1492, his journal entries cited the presence of strange hairless barkless dogs. Another breed existed in what is today Ecuador, Peru, and Chile. Today, both breeds are rare and expensive. The species were domesticated some 3000 years ago from the wolf.

They cool themselves by sweating. All other dogs do so by panting. Another attribute of the hairless dog is that they don’t bark. But due to Cubita’s ancestors’ proclivity for syncretism (mixing colors and customs resulting in a new unique culture), she’s found a voice, albeit muffled.

Cubita’s breed is named Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced Sholo-its-kint-lee), sometimes shortened to Xolo. The Aztec name derives from “Xolotl,” Aztec God of Lightening, combined with “itzcuintli” (guide dog for the dead) to form the word Xoloitzcuintli.

Postscript Cubita passed away at home on August 22, 2014, from complications resulting from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. ¡Descansa en paz, Cubita!