Jaoquin Pedro Gonzalez at his apartment in Havana, showing
his handmade quad and inline skates to SkateLog editor Kathie Fry
Copyright © Kathie Walling Fry, Editor of SkateLog.com
EL PATINADOR SOLITARIO
"The Lone Skater of Havana"
by Kathie Fry
My first trip to Cuba was in 2001, when I flew
there to report on an international speed skating
competition in Havana. I had become good friends
with several Cuban skaters over the Internet,
and when they invited me to visit Cuba to report
on their competition and learn more about skating in
Cuba, I welcomed the opportunity. That trip
only lasted a few days, but during that time
I met many of the skaters, families, and
federation members who would become my very
close friends in future years.
During my second trip to Cuba, in 2002, the Cuba
Cup included an inline skating marathon in the streets of
Havana. Most of the skaters an that event were
at the pro and elite level, but quite a few of
the local street skaters also participated,
including a professor in his mid 60's, known as "El Piti"
who skated the marathon in quad roller skates, and
one of the great treasures of Cuba,
74 year old Jaoquin Pedro Gonzalez, known to
everyone in Havana as "El Patinador Solitario".
or sometimes "that crazy old man on skates".
"The Lone Skater of Havana"
I first met Jaoquin Pedro Gonzalez Cabrera in
2001, when the Cuban National Speed Skating
Team took me on a special sightseeing tour
of Havana on skates. The team members
wore their national skin suits and I wore my
"SkateGRRL She's Hot" T-shirt, so needless to say
we attracted plenty of attention that day. Many
of the local street skaters joined our fun roll,
including 74 year old Jaoquin Gonzalez. I was very
surprised to see a skater his age in Havana, so
he caught my interest right away. After talking to
Jaoquin for about 10 minutes, I knew I HAD to
interview this man for an article, so my interpreter
and I made arrangements to visit Jaoquin the next day
at his apartment on the outskirts of Havana.
Jaoquin did not really start skating until
he was about 50 years old. One afternoon he just decided
to build himself a pair of roller skates that he
could use for developing physical fitness and for
transportation around Havana. Those skates were
only attached to his shoes with leather ties,
but not long after he built them, he skated all the way
from Havana to Guantanamo in those handmade quad roller skates
to commemorate a special memorial holiday in Cuba.
While I was at his apartment, he brought out an old
newspaper clipping to show me, which honored him
and five other skaters for their achievement in
skating such a great distance. I can't explain why,
but for some reason reading that old, tattered
and yellowed newspaper clipping brought a few
tears to my eyes. That is something that almost
never happens to me, but I was really feeling very
touched by this man.
One of the most amazing things I have ever seen
is the pair of inline skates Jaoquin made for
himself after he saw some of the local kids wearing
them in the early 1990's. He was very intrigued by
those skates and he was especially interested in the
inline arrangement of the wheels.
He decided it would be no problem at all to build himself
a pair of inline skates using sheet metal and
some leather straps. I find it almost impossible to believe,
but it is very true... Jaoquin skated on those handmade
inline skates for many years, until finally some family
members outside of Cuba sent him a pair of modern,
off-the-shelf, inline skates.
On my last trip to Cuba, I brought a gift for Joaquin:
a new pair of fitness inline skates and some new wrist guards,
knee pads, and elbow pads. He had skated so hard
in his old skates and gear he had practically worn
holes through the plastic. I brought that gift because
I have become very fond of Joaquin, and
I want him to be able to continue skating in comfort and
safety for the rest of his life.
Joaquin, if you are reading this article: You are an
inspiration to me, and you are now one of my greatest role
models. When I am 74 years old, I want to be skating
and living my life to the fullest, every single day, just like
the lone skater of Havana, "El Patinador Solitario".
Skating in Cuba
Skating in 100 Countries
Introduction to Skating Disciplines