By Desmond Boylan
Imagine a job that runs from Monday to Monday, starts at 5 am every day and does not end until 9 pm if all goes well and according to plan. No days off permitted.
The basic description is: A job to be filled by a person capable of performing a variety of skilled activities throughout the day starting at sunrise, a quick 3-mile hike each morning over rugged terrain, and several more long hikes each day under the hot Cuban sun, in pouring rain or any given meteorological conditions. The job involves collecting, packing, carrying and processing produce necessary for the proper development of the business assets. The pay is 500 Cuban pesos per month, around $20.
The person who was selected for this job 25 years ago is Bienvenido Castillo, nicknamed Lilly, a 74-year-old Cuban farmer, animal breeder, cow herder and tree climber. Whatever agriculture-related task you can imagine, he seems able to do it, easily.
I first saw Lilly a couple of years ago, on December 11, 2010. At a distance I spotted the frail figure of an old man carrying a machete and leading a herd of cows at a quick pace. I shot a few pictures of him with a telephoto lens, and then went on with what I was doing. Later on when I was editing pictures, the man caught my attention; I zoomed in on the picture in Photoshop, studied the figure and wondered.
Later on in 2011, I was chatting with a few farmers in the area and they said, “There goes Lilly with the milk train.” He is one of those impossible subjects, evasive and difficult to tackle. But one day months later, after crossing paths several times, I saw him working in a corn field and decided to make a bold move. I made my way over to where he was walking through the tall plants and without a word before he spotted me I started shooting pictures of him, first with a wide angle from the hip. He was still shy and evasive but curious about this foreigner always carrying modern clicking machines wading through the fields and taking an interest in his activity. I never imagined then that some day I would have this collection of pictures of Lilly, and that we would become friends. I now feel proud and admire this man.