Pablo Molina always wears a sombrero when out in public. As a self-described guajiro (a Cuban from the countryside), it’s a part of him. Molina’s looming figure towers over most at Orlando Latin Market, but his eyes are gentle. His smile is a warm welcome.
“Guajiro es…” the 66-year-old began, his voice trailing off. “Nací en el campo, en una granja en el campo.”
The term guajiro, Molina said, means you grew up in the countryside. In his case, it means a childhood spent at a farm.
“All my life, I’ve used a sombrero… since I was a boy,” Molina said as he stood outside the market.
(LISTEN: Molina speaks about what it means to be a guajiro in the below audio clip)
On this day, he wore a worn hat, parts of it faintly smudged from dirt and sweat. Salt and pepper hair poke out from underneath it.
“This is the tradition of the guajiro,” he said. “The tradition of the guajiro is a Texan sombrero and boots and, in my heart, livestock. That was mine, and horses, too.”
Molina has several sombreros — one for work, one for going out on Sundays, and more. He said he always wears a sombrero.
“It’s a habit now — a habit like putting on a shirt when I’m going out even if I’m already wearing an undershirt… like your car keys. You can’t get into the car without your keys.”
When does this guajiro remove his sombrero? At home to get some air, he said.
“Pero siempre, siempre tengo (But always, I always have it),” he said. “I don’t step out until I put it on.”
Though he’s been living in the United States since 1994, Molina still considers himself a guajiro.
“I carry that in my blood,” he said.