Photos: Lorenzo Crespo Silveira
Away from the bustle and pollution of the cities, on that very spot where Cuba begins, in the tip of the nose of that asleep cayman Cuba resembles in
a map, Eusebio Lazaro Matos Matos lives, the oldest of the keepers of the Maisi lighthouse that will celebrates this year is 150 anniversary.
He arrived here in 1965, when he was 27 years old and had an overwhelming desire to learn the secrets of the keepers, of white light that reaches 27
nautical miles and save ships and sailors from the uncertainties of the night and rough seas.
Nowadays he is 74 years, with a lot of gray hair, wrinkled skin by salt and sun, but no one can tell a story on his chosen profession. "There are two other keepers: Idalgo Matos Lores and Erasmo Durán Gaveira. We all live here with our families, "he says like he wouldn’t let us think that the enormous responsibility of turning on and off the beautiful optical light that flashes every five seconds is the work of a single man.
The lenses flash once every five seconds, revolving 240 times per hour and works through a mechanical system, says Eusebio, the chief of the lighthouse keepers.
"This works for counterweight, like the pendulum of a Roman clock, because the system is mechanical. Every day, before dusk, we go to the top to light
it, and at midnight we wind the mechanism that keeps working and turn off the lights at 6:00 in the morning, "he says, adding that each of the kepper
work 24-hour shifts.
He also speaks of the old revolving refractor machinery that consumed 1500 watt and now it was changed for a new one that saves 20 kwatt every night
and rotates 240 times per hour.
The Maisi Lighthouse rises 37 meters. Elizabeth II, Queen of Spain authorized its construction in May 1857 and it took five years to complete. It was opened on November 1862 with the aim of guiding the ships during their transit through the dangerous Windward Passage.
"This is a tough strait, difficult and very busy, through here between 40 and 50 vessels pass daily," said Eusebio, while we climb barefoot hundreds of steps to the top.
Why without shoes? I asked him, and he answers with an anecdote: "That was the idea of Raul Castro, our current president. In 1994 he visited the lighthouse, I was the one who guided him up to the top but before doing so I took off my shoes and socks. He asked me why, as you did just now, and I
said that to protect the paint of the stairs, then he suggested that since that time everyone who visited us climb like me: barefoot. "
He adds that this lighthouse is called "Concha" (Shell), because to build it they used stones from the shoreline and that although the original steps were of that material today are of wood. He also notes that from this point he had seen his share of tragedies: "The last one was in December 2011 when a Haitian yacht capsized … We saw it on the night, they were more than 80 people and many had drowned. We immediately called the authorities and helped in the rescue. It was very sad and I wish I don’t have to go over it "
Within months Eusebio Lazaro Matos Matos will retire. Now the house he will dwell, after almost half a century as a keeper of a light that can not fail, is ready a few meters from the lighthouse. His post, almost like a legacy, will be inherited by his son Alexei Matos Rivas: "He loves this life because, just imagine, since he was born he has seen me cleaning or lighting the lighthouse, starting to the entire system and very proud of what this place means."