I have fixed a lawn chaise with some shoelaces and the side panel of an old terry robe, the pocket handy for sunscreen. I rewove the webbing of a chair meant for the trash. I am living Cuban for a while, being ingenious and clever with what I have at hand to save items I can replace here in the US of A but not in Cuba. My four days in Havana Cuba were like a dream, fantasy and an education on all levels. I had always poopooed those people traveling in buses. I was independent and planned my trips. This time I HAD to travel en masse. The bus was beautifully air-conditioned, the others on my tour were interesting and fun and Ramone never got lost!
My first four pictures were old Chevy’s and Mercuries and Dodges that were at the airport and then a pink and white Corvette that was beautifully painted and jerry-rigged to run. Raul slowed down as he approached a stop sign and then slid through, putting it in gear and giving it gas with the same handle. We were four beautiful girls on our way to one unscheduled meal, at a Paladar, a privately owned restaurant in someone’s home where a lovely meal was served to about five tables of guests in the formal living-room with a its crystal chandelier. We were eleven and there were several four-tops. The owners keep their earnings, the budding of Capitalism to keep the country going.
Cuba will not go gently. They have withstood the embargo for six decades. An embargo that not only barred travel by Americans but punishes Nissan if they want to put more than 4% of Cuban metal in their cars. Why would they bother if they can get 100% from Thailand? The US will not import a car with more than four% Cuban metals. This runs across the board with every country and company.
I think the Cubans are better off for it. ( That’s my 60’s self talking.) They have pulled together and do what they must with what they have. If a man who shucks corn on a farm for 40CUCs /month(=US$40) needs a pace maker, he gets one. His daughter can go to college and get a master’s degree for free. There are eight Universities in Havana and a very fine medical school. Some of my countrymen from the Commonwealth of Dominica train there. Families live together for many generations. They learn to help each other and it sustains them. It is poor, yes very poor, but not a sin as in America. We could learn something from their cooperation.
We visited a Aquina de Jazz, a corner home where the living room had pictures of Celia Cruz and Chu Chi Valdes and every Latin musician, singer dancer there was. And they gave us gifts and a glass of rum and taught us the salsa. There are social societies all over the city to keep the children occupied and safe. One artist gathered children who made paper mache fruit for us and pictures with their names engraved.
As Americans we encountered happy people willing to help even if this woman could only say ?donde es? and mention her hotel when she was lost on her early morning walk. The Cubans are a hard working and fun-loving people. They were open about their culture and willing to share whatever they had. Their musicians are some of the best in the world. Most restaurants have a group playing for tips as do most bars and clubs. That is how they make their money. Their life is filled with practice, practice, practice. One guitarist played with Chu Chi at Carnegie Hall.
It felt very safe in Cuba, both day and night. I would have liked to see it in its heyday, the Paris of the Caribbean. It could be beautiful again. I am determined to go back.