This is what I learned from Cubans we met along the way. Whether it’s completely true or not I’ll never really know but others who have traveled extensively in Cuba have learned pretty much the same things as I.
|A MODEL OF VIEJA HAVANA|
Cuba offers their citizens free medical care and education. Most people, no matter what job they do, earn approximately $10 to $30 a month. The government gives them a monthly ration card so they can get for free; so many pounds of rice, cooking oil, some eggs and such. It’s a minimum amount of food, just enough to sustain them. If they want more food, they need to purchase it. Most grocery stores are just about empty except for alcohol. There are markets to buy fresh fruit, veggies and some chicken and pork.
|MOST STORES HAVE MINIMAL FOOD FOR PURCHASE|
The cows belong to the government. If you kill a cow, you will go to prison for 15 years however if you kill a human being, it’s 8 years in prison. Beef is for exportation and tourists and most likely government officials. Also, tobacco farmers must give their government 90% of their crop.
Many Cubans find other ways for making an extra buck. Sure you’ll see some Cubans with more money than others, in this case, they probably have friends or family in other countries that send them money or they work for the government.
There exists a black market. If you need something that you cannot purchase simply because there isn’t anything to buy in the stores, simply ask around and someone will tell you where to find it. In fact, potatoes can only be purchased on the black market. If you ask for some at the market, they will pull some out from under their counter for you.
Cubans are not allowed to move to another province. In fact, it is next to impossible to afford to travel. In most cases, when a person is born, they live with their parents until their parents die. When they marry, the spouse joins either parent’s home. The government doesn’t build any new homes. Cubans live rent free however they do pay for electricity and phones. They can swap homes with another person and recently, they can purchase a home however, it’s unlikely they can as they have little money.
Cubans seem to be content with what they have. A possible reason for this is that they all have the same. They are all either middle class or poor. The government does make sure that they have the very basic needs of life. I just read from another cruiser’s blog that they talked to a man who had a baby carriage. They asked him how he got it and the man showed them a baby ration card.
Most Cubans do not have cars and travel either by foot, bike or horse and buggy. Since 1959, when Fidel Castro assumed power, the majority of Cubans have been prevented from importing foreign cars and parts. Since then, locals have to rely on their ingenuity to fix and create custom parts to keep their vintage cars running. I’m pretty sure the vintage cars get their beautiful paint on the black market.
|SUSAN & REBECCA FOUND A GIRLY CAR|
|THIS IS A RARE CAR CALLED AN "EDSEL" MADE IN THE UNITED STATES|
One way people make an extra buck and if they are lucky enough to have access to a car, is being a taxi driver for the tourists. They can make more money in a day then in a whole month. We often used these taxi drivers rather than use the buses.
We stayed in “Casa Particular” which are rooms in people’s homes for rent. They charged us $25 to $30 a night. There are so many of them, it’s really easy to find one. The homeowners must pay the government $40/month for operating a Casa Particular whether they rent or not. Often, the owners will cook breakfast for a very small fee. We found we got more food at the casas then in restaurants.
We found a taxi who would drive the 4 hours to Havana. The highway was impressive with 4 lanes on each way with mostly farm land on each side. Once in Old Havana, we walked with our friends Rebecca & Dov on the quieter streets looking for a Casa Particular to stay for a few days. As soon as I met the owner, I knew this was the place. Our rooms were basic but each had their own bathroom and air conditioner which the government obliges the home owners to have for their guests. Our hosts were amazingly friendly and they made sure we had loads to eat at breakfast.
For days we walked the streets of Old Havana viewing the beautiful architecture. We ate street food and sat in tourist restaurants. By the way, only tourists are allowed to eat lobsters and meat! We found a brew pub in one of the squares and tasted their beer which was pretty good. There are several parks and each are beautiful. Certainly, the government spends lots of money where tourists visit, it was obvious. As soon as you left the tourist area, there was lots of garbage and crumbling dwellings. The government obviously doesn’t care that much about their own people.
|COOLING DOWN WITH A BEER AT THE BREW PUB|
|THE CAPITOL BUILDING|
BUILDINGS THAT AREN'T SO WELL TAKEN CARE OF. SOME ARE PEOPLE'S HOMES:
One of the things you cannot miss is the amazing Cuban bands. The music is plentiful and you can’t help but get up and dance. I just couldn’t get enough of it. We went out several nights, late, just to listen to some music.
Here are some things we saw while walking around:
|ALL SCHOOL KIDS HAVE UNIFORMS. THE COLOR OF THEIR SCARVES OR UNIFORMS TELLS YOU WHAT GRADE THEY ARE IN|
|ESTATUA DE CRISTO|
|REMAINS OF A U2 SPY PLANE|
|FORTALEZA DE SAN CARLOS DE LA CABANA|
We decided that we needed to have a drink everywhere Hemingway did:
|THIS BAR IS WELL KNOWN FOR HEMINGWAY DRINKING MOJITOS|
|MOJITOS ALL LINED UP|
|THIS BAR IS WELL KNOWN FOR HEMINGWAY DRINKING DAQUIRIS|
|DOV & TIM HANGING OUT ON THE STREETS OF HAVANA|
|ONE OF SEVERAL BEAUTIFUL SQUARES IN OLD HAVANA|
|WHAT A PAIR !|
|WATERWAY VIEW FROM THE MALECON (PROMENADE) BETWEEN OLD AND NEW HAVANA|
|TRANSLATION: I LOVE YOU FIDEL|