Cuba is not Havana Vieja. Cuba is not Vedado.
Cuba is not only touristic resorts a stone throw from plain white beaches. Cuba is not renovated beautiful colonial houses. Or Cuba is at least not only that…
I visited Cuba first time in 2014 for almost 5 months. It seems like ages ago. In 2016, I went back. In Havana some things are slowly changing but in the country side life goes on as when I first time visited.
However, I also got a chance to experience some of the less visited places on the Caribbean island. In this post, I want to show you parts of the reality in the Cuban villages. The Cuba that you don’t usually see.
Here there is no extra income from tourism to sweeten the life. Here the reality of years of terrible macroeconomic management and the embargo is lived every day. Even though, no es fácil (e.g. it is not easy) as the Cuban say, it is life.
It is the Cuba where almost nothing is frown out and everything can be repaired and re-sold.
It is the Cuba, where the electricity is cut off without motive in the middle of the day, and where the cut-offs during the night are planned at federal level.
It is the Cuba where there is no water for a whole apartment block after 9 pm because the tank on the roof of the building is empty.
It is the Cuba, where air-condition is a luxury even though the summer months are unsupportable hot.
It is the Cuba where the common form of transportation is a horse carriage, and even finding a taxi to bring you to the nearby village is a challenge.
It is the Cuba where the production of pigs and sugar is the main source of income of the majority of village, and where illegal businesses are run in the shadow – even though everybody knows what is going on.
It is the Cuba, where you daily hear in the chatting on the street of acquaintances whom have been arrested by the police for one or the other more or less unknown reason.
It is the Cuba where you can never be sure what aliments you can find, and where the most common phrase to hear during the day is se acabó (e.g. it is finished/sold out/it is over), and where you bring your own plastic bag when buying everything from sugar over rice to yoghurt.
It is Cuba, where the neighbor passes by to borrow water, sugar etc., because even though you did have the money to buy these things the shops are empty.
Cuba está en una encrucijada
Cuba is in a cross-way. The new diplomatic relations with the US and the political crisis in Venezuela have left Cuba in a cross-way.
For many years, Cuba exchanged well-educated doctors for oil with Venezuela. The current political and economic crisis in Venezuela has partly cut down on this exchange, and made oil a spare resource.
At the same time, the positive effects of the diplomatic opening with the US have still not manifested itself in the everyday life of most Cubans. This leaves the population with the hope of better times but with an actual situation that every day gets more and more complicated due to the instability in Venezuela.
As a result, in 2016, the amount of buses between the villages in most parts of the was cut down by 50%, while the increasing oil prices makes it unaffordable for many taxi drivers to keep on with their business. The challenge of finding transportation between the villages, affects everyday life of Cubans living in one village whilst working in another.
Cuba is its “pueblitos” with people living, working and fighting every day, and here there are no tourist to sweeten up life with extra cash. These are villages that tourists usually don’t see.