Before moving on to my third destination, Trinidad, It is time for a little reflection.
I told you a lot about my personal story of my travels, but the most important part why I wanted to travel to Cuba was to find out what the country is really like in terms of politics and the economy.
So, a few impressions so far:
There are very few banks and they are always completely full. There are always lines in front of the bank and you have to wait outside to be able to enter it. One day, I wanted to change some money, but I couldn’t since all the computers crashed. I just asked the people waiting in line outside ‘’Que pasa?’’, What’s going on? And the answer was just simply ‘’Pfff! El systemo a Cuba!’’- The Cuban system. Angry Cubans really don’t care, they tell you the truth.
Absolute chaos. They are almost completely empty and the goods are mixed in the shelves. And again, there are masses of people waiting to get in. It is really expensive, a package of pasta for instance costs around $3CUC. If you want to find veggies, meat, milk, or similar things then you have to buy it from little stores on the streets. Those are often open windows where people are selling things from their private houses. The meat is just laying on tables in the sun for the whole day. After Raul Castro’s privatization policies, Cubans are allowed to own private shops which they can do in their own houses. Consequently, a number of Cubans are now ‘Businessmen’ and you can see many of these ‘’Window-Shops’’ where most things are being paid in Pesos ($MN). Those shops can be Cafeterias, selling Pizza, or also electronic shops where things can be repaired… Or where just some rubbish is being sold.
There is at least one police officer in every street. Of course, there is no violence or crime then in Cuba. Even though the houses and everything looks fucked up like in a bad European neighbourhood, it is still safe.
Politics, Freedom of speech
Every Cuban is integrated into the system. That’s why it is important to be careful with whom you want to share information. Julio and I for example talked in a bar about the bracelets which I am wearing- I have a lot of leather bracelets but also some fabric bracelets which my friends and my boyfriend made for me. So, I explained to him the different bracelets- and I also have one that I bought in Amsterdam with a friend of mine and it is made out of hemp. When I told him this, then he completely freaked out. He said that it is illegal and that I should never mention this again while I am in Cuba. I told him however, that my bracelet cannot be smoked and that hemp is often used for various things, in the construction industry, etc. Still, he said that there are people everywhere who listen to what the others say and then there could be trouble.
Even though I have only seen one homeless person in Cuba and there might not be extreme poverty in the country, many people are still not well-off. Often, children approach tourists on the streets and ask them for pencils or soap.
In the 90s, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba ended up in economic disaster, people virtually didn’t have anything. Once the country opened up for tourism, tourists were told to bring the basic things to the country and distribute it amongst children especially. Even though now, in 2015, Cubans can buy soap and pencils and such things, children still learned from their parents and grandparents that for some reasons, tourists often carry pencils and soap, etc. with them. So, they ask them for it.
This often made me angry, as it is not necessarily a good thing for the Cuban society. It lets them assume that every tourist is rich! If you really want to help the Cubans, then take things with you such as medicine, lighters, pencils, shower gel and donate it to schools or hospitals. Many children are cheeky and they don’t even say hi or smile at you, they simply approach you and say ‘’do you have a pencil?’’, or even just ‘’pencil?’’
This is what I found out after just a couple of days in Cuba. During my travels, I learned much more, and especially more details about life in Cuba, though.