One evening, while sitting on the patio of our casa in Vinales, Cuba, I heard a very loud and strange sound. I looked up from my sip of rum and saw these beasts dragging something down the hill. A sheet metal and wooden box had been set on top of an old tire and chained to the animals. After the gentleman made a couple of stops it became clear that he was hauling away trash in this curious contraption.
If you have learned a skill, you’ll never be out of work. This is especially true in Cuba.
I’ve discovered several shops where ornamental iron work is fabricated. Skilled workers make custom door and window pieces for added home security and decoration.
My dear friend Oscar can be found near the Convento de San Francisco de Asis in Trinidad, Cuba.
He’s a gentle man with a friendly smile who lives out-of-town. Every day this seventy-four year old loads coconuts and bananas onto his wheelbarrow and pushes them into town to “his” spot in the street.
His spot is at a park near the tall tower in town. Here he sells coconuts to tourists. He’ll select one for you and expertly chop the top off by wielding his machete. When just a hint of the white coconut meat is revealed, he will cut it away and insert a straw so that you can drink the milk. When finished with the drink, return the coconut to Oscar and he will again wield his tools to split the fruit and cut out the fresh white meat for you to eat.
He doesn’t like to complain, but after you get to know him he’ll tell you that arthritis in his hands and tendonitis in his arms make it difficult for him to do his job.
If you see Oscar, slip him a CUC for me. Or better yet, buy a coconut.
Simple tools for simple jobs does not mean the jobs are easy.
Here, workers re-pave a section of the cobblestone street near Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba. Picks, shovels, and hoes are used to remove the stones. The area is leveled with gravel and the stones are refitted and tamped into place with wooden posts.
On this July day the work done is in the cool shade of early morning.
I heard the crying from several houses away.
As I neared, I spotted her sitting behind the railing on her steps. A little girl with giant tears streamed down her face. I immediately started to mock her sobs in a comforting, parental way. “What’s the matter?” “Why the crocodile tears?” “What are you sad about?”
Her mother appeared in the doorway. I flashed some gum to her, asking if it was alright for me to offer. Her mother smiled and nodded.
I turned my attention back to the sobbing little girl and I stuck out my hand with a piece of gum. The sobbing stopped. The little girl knew what to do with the treat. In a flash it was unwrapped and in her mouth. Quickly she was joined by her sister and they started posing for my camera.
It didn’t take long for the tears to dry and smiles to appear.
Centro Habana is alive and bustling
It’s where I prefer to stay
The bici-taxis, motor cycles, motor bikes, and cars (both old and new) dodge and weave their way through streets full of children playing, old folks with canes or walkers, young people in a hurry, and
those just hanging out and talking.
The beeps, toots, whistles, rings, or blaring Reggaeton music warn all to step out-of-the-way.
Somehow it works.
It’s amazing that there are not a rash of accidents.
Tu Kola is the Cuban equivalent to Coca Cola. Apparently a shipment arrived in Havana on this day because I saw cases being delivered in more than one location.
At Bar Metropolitanos my friend Damian found himself in the middle of the action. After he posed for a photo with two cases of cola I showed everyone the image I made earlier of a guy carrying six cases into another restaurant. We all had a good laugh.