In a quiet residential Havana neighborhood, silversmith Roxana Vargas’s ROX jewelry company is both a deeply personal journey of self-discovery and a symbol of progress for Cuba’s emerging cuentapropistas (entrepreneurs) class.
The Cuba Journal visited Roxana’s workshop to learn more about her jewelry making and her personal story.
Inspired by her father’s belief in her inner strength, Roxana turned her civil engineering studies and a passion for silversmithing into a thriving business employing more than 30 people with a growing international presence. “My earlier passion for shaping metal into eternal pieces of art is now self-sustaining,” Roxana says in rapid Spanish. When asked about her biggest challenge, she says getting funding from friends and family to grow the business proved to be most difficult.
ROX has gathered additional support from Cuba’s recent re-engagement with the U.S. and the swelling ranks of tourists visiting the island for the first time. ROX products are for sale at a growing number of public and private outlets. She even participated in this year’s Habanos Cigar Festival and won an award. And her designs reflect this new opportunity. “Open Doors” is a recent collection that reflects all the excitement unfolding on the political front in Cuba.
Changes to U.S. rules may allow her products to be sold there. Artisanal products like clothing, shoes and accessories are permitted while prohibited items include food products, vehicles and machinery. On the Cuban side, goods produced by independent Cuban cuentapropistas are now authorized for export.
Another collection in the works is Lo bello lo llevo dentro (“I Wear My Beauty Within”), inspired by a song by Pablo Milanes.
After four years in operation, ROX remains a family business. Her husband is a photographer, and her sister has been an important contributor since the beginning.