Alfredo was born in Costa Rica, but moved to Los Angeles with his family at age ten. “It was a total culture shock for me,” he says. “Nobody spoke Spanish in my new fifth grade class, and I couldn't even mutter ‘I don’t speak English’ properly.” Adapting was difficult, but, immersed in English, he became fluent in less than a year.
Alfredo studied Latin-American history at the University of Costa Rica, and Spanish-American literature at UCLA—then returned to Costa Rica for business, expecting to stay a few months. “But something happened,” he says. “Time slowed down for me. All of a sudden, I was much more aware of my surroundings: the mountains, jungles, rivers—but especially the people; they were so willing to spend time with you and each other, kid around and talk about whatever.” He began doing the same, and his “inner Latin American” awakened.
Alfredo ended his business venture, married, and became one of Costa Rica’s top tour guides. He established his own tour business, later recommended in Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, and Costa Rica for Dummies. He has also worked in tourism in Mexico, Guatemala, Curacao, and Morocco.
He began leading groups to Cuba in 2011, and felt an immediate connection. “In spite of the country’s controversial political system and lack of resources, I was fascinated by their architecture, landscape, music, socialist culture, adaptability, kindness, creativity and defiant spirit. The Cubans were survivors, just as I had once been.”
Since then, Alfredo has led more than 35 groups to the island, establishing close relationships with new and older generations of Cubans. “I've been fortunate to have received a privileged insight into Cuban society,” he says. “My mission as a tour leader is to share that insight with my groups—but most important, to make the Cuban people feel comfortable about sharing their own stories with our travelers."