Beyond Roots was founded on December 4, 2016 in a context marked by the increase in the arrival of visitors to the island, given the reestablishment of relations with the United States promoted by the Obama administration.
People began to arrive eager to have first-hand contact with the way of life of the people in Cuba. However, we realized that the tourist offer available in the country was very superficial, focused mainly on traditional history, architecture and nature. Regarding the Afro-Cuban culture, we identified the existence of very polarized feelings on the part of the visitors. On the one hand, many people were interested in learning about the subject, mainly people of African descent who sought to connect with their roots and with the way of life of their ancestors; on the other hand, they felt scared and intimidated about associating Afro culture and specifically Afro-Cuban religions with something negative and dark.
It was precisely for this reason that we had the idea of starting to offer an experience dedicated to demystifying Afro-Cuban traditions, fundamentally religions. We would break with the logic of the existing tours up to now, offering visitors a true immersion in this theme through the use of the 5 senses. The experiences would take place in Guanabacoa, a town recognized as the cradle of Afro-Cuban culture, one of the most humble neighborhoods in Havana and far from the big tourist centers.
We started with only 3 people, but the acceptance of the experience and the desire of the neighbors to participate in the initiative led us to form an ever larger team and introduce new elements that allowed us to perfect the experience. In only 6 months the team grew to 10 people, receiving an average of 60 guests per month. We were creating a platform where members of the community could display their talents, share their experiences while having an alternative source of income.
And so new, more specialized experiences arose in themes such as: music, dance, culinary traditions, visual arts, lifestyle and religion. People would have the opportunity to delve into the edges that are of most interest to them. After 2 years we have had 5 different experiences, with a team of 28 people and an average of 260 clients served per month, becoming recognized as the most entrepreneurial experiences within the Airbnb platform in Cuba.
In response to a claim from our guests, we began to design and market souvenirs that would serve as a memory of that Afro Cuba that they had experienced with us and that they wanted to show to family and friends. To do this, we began to identify local talents and create unique products such as pullovers and bags with identity graphics, key rings, mugs, and jewelry. Since we did not have a physical space, we decided to create a portable store.
The success of the initiative led us to consider the idea of starting to design products for people in Cuba as well. It was very difficult to find products on the island that would enhance the Afro aesthetics and identity, from jewelry or clothing to natural Afro hair care products.
Once the store opened, we understood that more than products, people needed advice and support. For the first time many people were discovering their natural hair and did not know how to treat it. It was there when we understood that more than a commercial brand, Beyond Roots was becoming a community that not only trained people, but also generated spaces for exchange and support through workshops, talks, conferences and events. A community that Vibrates Beyond, of people who walk down the street educating without speaking, proudly displaying their Afro hair or simply a pullover that says: It’s not Fashion, it’s Identity,
We dream of a space that will give people the chance to find items that will allow them to proudly show off their Afro-descendants and connect with their essence. On September 7, 2019 we were able to make that dream come true and we opened the first Afro-style store in Cuba. We saw this as an opportunity to promote local talent and establish collaborative ties with other cultural projects and other entrepreneurs. This is how the Beyond Roots store also became a platform that makes other local brands visible and promoted.
In May 2022, we made another dream come true with the opening of our own salon. A space for interaction, freedom, and reconciliation with our roots from hair care, with natural products that do not alter your texture; but they revive and empower it. The magic of that salon: our stylists, professionals specialized in afro-curly hair who offer various services (cuts, hair routine designs for a month, hair diagnoses, curl definition and deep treatments).
In these 6 years there have been many lessons learned, the challenges overcome and the creative and decisive potential that we have had to deploy. Our greatest pride: how much the brand has grown, and how much we have grown in that process
Our purpose: To transform your life in a positive way at the same time that we transform ours