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La Vida Cubana

Living in Cuba

Playing chess in the streets of Havana At this page we will try to give you an idea of how it is to live the Cuban life ... La Vida Cubana.

First of all ...
Cuba is NOT dangerous!

This is the biggest Cuban myth making the rounds el mundo; that 'Cuba is dangerous to visit', and/or to travel about. This is simply NOT the case! I am happy to notice that this "chisme" is getting less lately.
But ... just to be sure, read the crime page of Cuba-Junky since there are some details you should better know before going.

Crime in Cuba

Los Cubanos

Kids in Centro HavanaSugar is white, brown and mid brown, same as Cubans. Havana City is a universal place with its rumbas, carnivals and parties. It is the mythological bridge between real and unreal. There are more than 11 million inhabitants in Cuba. Cuban are a mixture of different cultures and races. They are not Spanish or Africans, but just Cubans.

Cubans are imaginative, Happy, without prejudices. They have "that", Cubans are intelligent, joking, always smiling; like parties, are communicative and talkative, welcoming, honorable, educated, open to the world, always wanting to know the new things, faithful to their historical experiences and identity, without xenophobia. Cubans dance, walk and sing, sing deep to the rhythm of the drums, Cubans also created melodies that have travelled all over the world.

Cubans are clean in both their personal appearance as well as what you'll see in their homes. They may not have a lot of personal possessions but what they do have is immaculately cared for. A woman may possess one dress, but you can count on its being freshly laundered and pressed.Cubans are a very proud people, and appearances do count, as in most other countries in the world.

Cubans are carefree and casual in their demeanor, except for the police. lol!!
Most Cubans love to socialize and make jokes amongst themselves, even at work.

Salaries

How much does a Cuban earn? By western standards, Cubans make 'lunch money' a month; only about 12 euro. Unemployment and under employment is high, and most families struggle mightily just to survive.

This economic reality is why you'll see people begging on the streets and approaching you looking for a handout, as well as street performers hoping that tourists will chuck a few pesos or, better yet, CUC (convertible pesos), into their hats. 99% of the Cubans are to proud to beg!

Ration Book (La Libreta)

Peso Store in Centro HavanaThere isn't enough food in the country to feed all of the Cuban population.. The reason for this is mostly due to the US economic embargo imposed against Cuba starting in 1960. As a consequence of chronic food shortages, Cubans are issued with ration cards that determine how much of everything that a person or a family are entitled to on a daily/monthly basis.

Cubans get their groceries at a local 'peso store', the book "says" what one can buy. E.g. A family is entitled to rations of milk only if that family have a child, or children, under the age of six. This ration-book is also saying, how much beans, rise and coffee your family can buy, in pesos. In addition, simply having a ration book does not ensure that the person or family will get food, and foodstuffs because the peso stores also suffer food and household supply shortages. As an example, 1 bar soap is rationed to half a bar per person per month!

Ration BookTo give an example ... A family of four is entitled to a ration of only 200 grams (7 ounces) for two weeks, and the coffee, at that, is mixed with peas, and is thus 'watered down' before one even adds water. Major 'ugh' if you love coffee!

A humble chicken will cost a Cuban 8 cuc! Last year I purchased a canned ham and it cost 6 cuc. In my country, Holland, the same product would be 1.75 euros ($2.20 USD).

The embargo has truly hurt the country and specifically been felt most acutely by the ordinary Cuban in the street.


Public transport in Cuba

How Cubans move from one place to the other?
"No es facil", the Cubans used to say when these kind of topics come up.

All the drivers of cars who are owned by the state of Cuba (blue and light red) have to take all hitch-hikers with them, after they finish work. Can be (empty) tourist busses as well the trucks.
That's why you see alot of hitch-hikers standing next to the road on the autopista or at crossroads in the inlands.

To be sure of a fast ride people bring all kinds of merchandise like garlic, chickens, money, cheese ... everything they can trade to get a fast ride.
The perfect solution when a country as Cuba has a terrible public transportation like busses and trains.

Remind that by Cuban law, a Cuban without a taxi-licencee is NOT allowed to take you, a foreigner, with them in their car. Not even when it is your best friend.
Of course you will meet Cubans who want to drive you to where-ever, but it is not allowed. The risk you take is that when the police stops you, the driver gets a fine and you have to out of the car, even when it is in the middle of no-where!

Camel bus

Public transportation in "La Habana"
More then 300 people are fitting in this bus, but for the real Cuban experience you most try at least once, take care of your belongings

* Since June 2008 the camel busses in Havana are replaced by new Chinese busses

Cuban Family Life

Most Cubans share a small house with their extended families. So it's not unusual for grandmothers, grandfathers, their kids, and their kids' kids all to be co-existing under the same roof. It's therefore a crowded family environment that they grow up in but hey, that's just the way it is. In Havana you frequently will see colonial house that split the high ceiling rooms into two floors, Cubans call the top floors of these splitted rooms a Barbacoa (BBQ) since the temperature in therse kind of apartments is extremely hot.


Education

Cuban school kids Centro HavanaMost Cubans under the age of forty-five have been to either college or university because education is free to its citizens.

At hotels, restaurants and bars it's not unusual to find that the people serving you will have a university degree because in the tourism business they stand a chance of making tips which far exceed the 'normal' monthly workers salary of 300 pesos a month.

That taxi driver who just dropped you off might well be a dentist or doctor by profession, so don't judge the people by their appearances or their jobs.


Cuban Cuisine

When I've been to Cuba on some trips I've lost as much as 5 kgs. (11 pounds!), yet I've eaten very well. It could be because while I am in Cuba I tend to drink a lot of water. Despite the lack of food, Cubans are really very good cooks.

"... Cubans have inventively combined Spanish, African and Caribbean traditions and ingredients into a unique and characteristic cuisine. Chicken, pork, lobster, fish and, to a lesser degree, beef and lamb are the meat staples; black beans, rice, yucca (cassava), malanga (sweet potato), boniato (yam) and plátanos (plantains) are the leading legumes and starches ..."

 

 

 

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