by Emmanuel Joseph
Barbados will soon have an unofficial tourism promotion ambassador in Cuba.
Raul Garcia, who is being deported to his Cuban homeland on Monday morning, after spending 15-and-a-half years of a 20-year jail sentence on cocaine charges in a Barbados prison and just over three years in immigration detention pledged today, that when he returns to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country, he will constantly promote this country as a safe and healthy place to visit or live.
Garcia, who was released by a High Court from immigration detention about five months ago, told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, he will be pushing this country by word-of-mouth, through his paintings and in a book he will be writing about his experience here.
“I am going to promote Barbados for the main reason that not only is the country beautiful, but because the people are beautiful. If I would have the power, I would bring 10 million people into this country, because I wish to see my people progress, because I know the 10 million people that would come here, would like it,” asserted Garcia, who claimed that 99 per cent of his painting skills, was learned at Dodds Prison.
He boasted of having taken about 300 photographs of local sites and scenes which he intended to reflect in his paintings on Barbados.
Noting that Barbados and Barbadians would forever be etched in his memory like family, the 59-year-old man, who spent most of his life in the US after migrating from Cuba at age 10, also stole the heart of a Bajan woman, thus giving him heightened motivation to lure fellow Cubans to the land of the sea and sun.
“I would say that the welcome that the Barbadian people have given me was the most memorable and the most important and the most sacred. The experience that I had here in Barbados, it has made the base of what I feel for Barbados; something that I will never erase from my life. Wherever I been, I have added another country, but this one, even more strongly to my heart, that I can also say, I am a Bajan,” declared the father of three boys.
“I went to almost every corner of Barbados sight seeing. I have taken almost 300 photographs because I am planning to keep painting Barbados wherever I live. But the one I enjoyed the most is the Bathsheba area, because I have painted Bathsheba several times. I wasn’t able to see Bathsheba in prison, until I reached there (Bathsheba),” Garcia pointed out.
“When I used to go out with my girlfriend (in Barbados) in her car, I used to drive her crazy, because any time I see an old chattel house, or a sugar cane field or people working … or an old antique mule cart, or anything that caught my eyes, I said to her stop, that I wanted to take a picture. On top of that, when I walk in Bridgetown, I have taken photographs of dozens of old people, walking with walking [sticks], sitting, vendors selling fruits with their umbrellas, the market scenes, because this is what I want to paint of Barbados.” [email protected]
*See the full feature on Garcia in tomorrow night’s edition*