When he isn’t jet-setting around the world or playing fútbol, you’ll find Mario Cuadros with a camera in hand, deftly capturing the urban landscape of Chicago. Colombian-born and South Carolina-raised, Mario came to the city one year ago for grad school. His passion for street photography quickly flourished, and there isn’t a day that goes by he isn’t inspired to capture life around him. As Digital Marketing Associate for Chicago’s First Lady Cruises and its sister company Mercury Cruises, Mario is the voice and creator behind its various social platforms. His natural talent for visual storytelling translates to compelling images of the boats, Chicago and its people. A favorite quote from landscape photographer Destin Sparks sums it up for Mario: “Photography is the story I fail to put into words.” Learn more about Mario below and follow @cuadlens to see his Chicago stories unfold.
What led you to become a digital marketing associate?
I graduated with a major in public relations and began working in social media right out of school. At the time social media was still trying to find a niche within the marketing/advertising profession. Due to the lack of direction within the industry, I began learning design and digital marketing to go along with the writing skills I had already developed. When I moved to Chicago, this was a perfect fit to allow me to continue growing in an emerging profession.
Tell us about your most interesting job.
I worked at a B2B advertising agency and gained a lot of knowledge that I will probably never use again. Just a few examples are knowing what base products are fundamental for industrial hand soaps, the appropriate size and weight for recommended materials handling equipment, how much cargo BNSF trains carry per year and the recommended tire tread for commercial trucks in varying climates. Not the most entertaining industries, but I certainly learned things that could come useful during trivia night.
As a child, what did you want to do when you “grew up”?
At one point I wanted to be a race car driver. I also wanted to be a tennis player and soccer player.
What is your favorite building on the tour and why?
I love the 150 N. Riverside building. The modern architecture is beautiful and the base of the building is unlike any other I’ve ever seen. You add the fact that the building uses water tanks to balance it against the wind and it’s truly an engineering marvel. It’s also super photogenic, which makes my job a bit easier.
Tell us about a memorable experience on the job at Chicago’s First Lady Cruises/Mercury Cruises.
I joined an influencer cruise we hosted before I even started working here. I got a text from our director of marketing asking if I was available to join the cruise and just experience what it was like to host a group on one of our boats. Five minutes into the cruise and I was already posting to Instagram. It was a great introduction to the company for sure.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Cali, Colombia, but spent some time in Miami and South Carolina.
What are three passions of yours?
Sports (playing and watching), photography and eating.
Where in Chicago are your favorite places to….
● Unwind – I love going to a rooftop in the summer. In the winter, speakeasy’s are always super chill.
● Experience the great outdoors – running along the lakefront trail.
● Grab a great cup of coffee/tea – I’m trying to get more into coffee, but just so I’m not being so basic by saying Starbucks, I’ll say Fairgrounds.
● Enjoy a delicious dinner – There’s so many to choose from. As a burger aficionado I’ll say Umami. For a more fancy dinner, you can’t go wrong with Duck Duck Goat.
● Play tourist for a day (besides the cruise of course!) – the views from 360 Chicago are amazing. Especially at sunrise and sunset.
What’s something about Chicago (restaurant, activity, destination, etc) that is a “hidden gem” of yours?
If you’re looking for some quality Cuban food, Cafecito in Streeterville is a must. I am obsessed with that place. Try the ropa vieja sandwich and order some plantains on the side. You’ll thank me later.
What is the most adventurous thing you've ever done?
Traveling to another country by myself. I love to travel and sometimes I admit I travel too much for my own good (mostly because my wallet is yelling at me that I can't afford to travel so much). My friends can’t keep up with my traveling so sometimes I have to go by myself.
What is the next destination on your travel wish list?
I’m heading to Europe in a couple weeks. Hitting up London, Paris, Rome and Barcelona. Then I’m seeking some warmer weather in Aruba for New Years. Next year Tokyo and Peru are on the wish list.
What has been your most interesting customer interaction?
I don’t interact face to face with customers, but I handle all social media/Trip Advisor reviews and complaints. There was a customer that was complaining about how the mayor wasn’t using funds properly to fix the roads. If I had to guess, I'd say he confused us with the Mayor's wife, since she's also Chicago's First Lady. I kindly told them that we unfortunately couldn’t do anything about it, but to keep me updated about what transpired.
What is something people are surprised to learn about you?
That I lived in South Carolina for a long time. People don’t think I look like a southern boy. That is until my accent kicks in.
What is the best or a memorable piece of advice you've received?
This may be cliche, but no matter how successful you are in life, you’re not above anyone else. My parents instilled in me that you should always treat people with respect.
What was your very first job?
I grew up playing tennis, so one of my first jobs was helping out my coach with tennis clinics and running the pro shop. That meant being a cashier, stringing racquets and taking care of the courts.
What is the last book you read (or are reading)?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It’s a great autobiography about the guy that created my favorite brand.