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WORKERS NEWSPAPER / PORTRAIT: A legend. Posted on November 5, 2020 by María de las Nieves Galá León

Alfredo Vázquez Páez is a living legend in Ómnibus Nacionales. At 80 he is still active. On his shirt he has a lot of medals pinned that speak for themselves of this simple Cuban. Among these, those of an internationalist fighter in the People’s Republic of Angola stand out, where he served as a caravanner in 1983. He shows his head, he still has the trace of the wound caused by a mine explosion. “That was in Dinge, the caravans were at risk. He remembers his partner Jesús Fornia, who when he got out of the car was the victim of a mine. “He was our gunner. He lost both eyes. I go to see him every so often, ”and for him that is an act of fidelity to his brothers in battle, who risked his life for the cause of the Angolan people. Among Alfredo’s medals are those of the National Vanguard of the National Union of Transport and Port Workers, to which he has dedicated his existence. He affirms that he was born in 1938, but his mother, very poor and with 10 children, was able to register him two years later, so if one is guided by this date he would add a little more to his calendar. “If I tell you one thing, you don’t believe it, I started working on the buses in 1947, as a scrubber, so he was nine years old, but in the inscription he appeared seven. I did not have a home, I slept on the bus route, a terminal that belonged to Francisco Méndez, in central Toledo, today Manuel Martínez Prieto, in Havana ”. He tells that naturally, as if it had been the most normal thing in a child. “At that time, I had only been able to get to second grade, with a lot of effort from my mother. “I arrived at this terminal in 1951, they didn’t give me a job, I was black and had never been to school. I officially started in the sector in 1954, as a scrubber on Route 22. They paid me a peseta and gave me a plate of food. Sometimes I cleaned others and earned some peseticas, ”he said. According to him, it was at the triumph of the Revolution that he managed to drive a bus, because although he already had a second-class license, he did not have access to the position. “There was a lot of discrimination, I suffered it. The first trip I made was in 1959, for the commemoration of July 26 in Santiago de Cuba. The bus was full of artemiseños. At that moment I got my first license, and moreover I never left my car ”. A worker from the Víazul grassroots business unit, belonging to the National Omnibus company, explained that he has driven the Havana-Baracoa line. For him this is not the most dangerous route. “You have to be more careful in the city, because there is more traffic. To climb the Lamppost you have to go slowly, change in the allotted time, everything is a school. For me, the road to Viñales is riskier ”. It is said by someone who knows the roads like the back of his hand. On his shoulders are the epaulettes that show the bars for his 50 years of service without accidents, although he asserts that they are a little more, because he has never had them. “Complying with the Highway Code, it is possible.” However, he points out, he has been present at events of this type, although not as a driver; and there is always some cause, be it human or technical. In these times of COVID-19, nostalgia has marked him, since, as a vulnerable person due to his age, they decided that he should remain in his home. “But I would like to be doing things; help with cleaning or any reconstruction work. The terminal means my life, I can’t live without this place, ”he assures with a longing that comes from his heart. When asked how long he will drive, he says that as long as his health allows. “Every year I take exams, and I pass them,” and to show his agility he does some squats. “I always do exercises, besides, I don’t drink, I just smoke a cigarette occasionally”, and he assures that his maxim is to do good for all people and learn something every day. ” And he left him with his humble smile, as if he did not know that he is a living story from which much is learned.

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