Meet Havana’s Acapulco Skateboarding Team

Teo Escobar and Jorge Guillen contribute to The New Tropic through the the Cuban Journalism Fellowship, an initiative of the International Center for Journalists with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The fellowship seeks to strengthen ties between Cuban independent journalists and their counterparts in the United States.  

“Wow,“ they shout, “did you see that backflip?”

The other skaters gather around Oscar to high-five him as he grabs the board in one hand and takes off his cap with the other. He holds his left wrist high showing the team pennant tattoo. “It’s our link,” he says while an old lady waiting for the bus turns her face, shaking her head in disapproval.

Oscar, Raúl and Siro have been skating in Acapulco Park for at least two years. They are part of the Acapulco Skateboarding team, a group of skaters determined to become pro in a country where that sport is victim to prejudices of the majority of Cubans.

“Skating is my life,” says Siro, who strained his thigh last year while landing a tricky jump and couldn’t skate for about seven months.

The physical threats of practicing an X-Sport are only half of it.  Buying a pro skateboard in Cuban stores is currently unattainable.  Therefore, skaters rely on foreigners who come to Cuba and gift them a skateboard during events or tournaments. A broken board can mean months without being able to skate.

They also have to battle the stereotypes.

“Most people think skaters are just some damn potheads,” says Siro. Since hardcore communist ideologists consider skateboarding to be a “capitalistic trend” that corrupts the youth, acceptance has been slow.

“But I don’t mind,” says Siro. “I’m a skater and I don’t care what they think about me.”