I made a couple of guaguas for a reader and his brother. These two will be going to the wonderful city of Vancouver in Canada.
I try to make my guaguas as durable as possible. I wrap them with strong string; a technique I got from a book on how to make shakuhachis (Japanese bamboo flutes). I also coat them with Watco Danish oil which works well. I cut out round holes, instead of making a slit, to help prevent splitting and cracking.
These instruments take a beating and bamboo likes to split. Since musicians are paying me money for them I try and make them to last. Of course if your banging away on them with thick and hard rock and roll drum sticks, they are going to break. Timbale sticks are good, also softer wood dowels cut to size from a hardware store.
The thing is in Cuba, I assume you can just take a walk and chop down a stalk of bamboo anytime you want to make a guagua. That's not really possible in Vancouver, B.C. There are other alternatives, but nothing quite gives the authentic sound like a chunk of bamboo to get your rumba really driving hard.