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Cuba

Daily Life in Cuba

Hundreds of young vendors tramp up and down the streets of Havana selling cigars, newspapers, flowers. They even shine shoes and sharpen scissors...
Cuba, and especially Havana, live in immense poverty (black market, ration cards, prostitution).

Even if the Libreta assures a minimum level of nourishment for each Cuban, eating is the first preoccupation for the majority of Habaneros. Without Libreta, ration cards which impose restrictions on gas, rice and coffee, it's impossible to survive.

With the equivalent of 15 dollars a month for a single monthly salary, everyday life is difficult, even paying rent is difficult. Because of this, Cuba has become the capital of "getting by" and making do, a way of life that requires solving the problems of everyday life.

The "Special Period" declared by the Government, and meant to last only five years has been in force since 1991. In addition, the American embargo on Cuba and the demise of the Soviet Union, which cut off international allowances that the Soviets were giving to Cuba, have only made matters worse.

Therefore, the life of the Cuban people is governed by the constraints of poverty: lack of basic necessities (especially food), electricity cutoffs, restrictions on petrol, etc.

With the arrival of tourism, Cuban's learned how to live with a pocket full of pesos and dreams full of dollars.

The massive entry of tourists has resulted in a storehouse of dollars, the possession of the almighty dollar was made legal for Cubans on July 26th, 1996.

Of the three currencies in the country: the peso, the peso convertible and the dollar, only the greenback is in circulation on the island.

The consequence of this is that life is expensive for tourists! In one week, an average couple will spend 100 dollars a day,and only if they are content to each chicken and rice, to sleep one night in a car and to bring back just a few souvenirs, all of this of course without counting airfare and car rental fees.

All over Cuba, in the country or in its cities, people sell cigars to tourists, offer them a room in their homes, Casa particulares, clandestine restaurants, paladares, and ravishing young women for company, even if sexual tourism isn't visible on the streets of the Malecon in Havana.

Men, in fact, are being solicited more and more by the young or not so young single or married women who come from Spain especially to satisfy their romantic and sexual needs.

The ambiance is therefore very pleasant. Musicians play especially for the tourists sitting on the terraces of cafés.

Children fill the public spaces and play under the watchful eyes of old people who watch the passersby.

Each street or building becomes a theatrical event, a permanent spectacle.
It's an ideal place for tourists.

Tourists, after all, have nothing to fear for their possessions or for their persons. Potential delinquents are kept at bay, because even the pettiest larceny may land them in jail for a long time, with Cuban laws and sanctions which result in being taken directly to a "House of Education" for a few decades.

Furthermore, the police are everywhere. They patrol every street and street corner watching out for the safety of foreigners in their areas. One on of the squares, they keep watch by the tens. At first, this is an amazing sight to the eyes, then you get used to it.

Otherwise, the cultural and educational level of the general population is exceptional. Young people and adults alike, less so for the elderly, possess and encyclopedic culture and a natural curiosity.

Children begin school at the age of five and continue until they are seventeen. After they finish school they can either choose between specialized higher education or university. The less studious go into the army.

Contrary to the propaganda, the health system has become obsolete. The hospitals are in a terrible state of disarray, and the sanitary conditions remind one of the middle ages.

Basic medications and equipment (particularly for head and stomach aches), syringes, sterile gloves, etc. simply do not exist. Don't hesitate to bring medication along with you for your trip.

In this economic chaos, the black market is flourishing. Certain people make in one week what the State might pay them in a year's time.

 

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