Nena is an elderly woman who I met in 2013 on my first visit to Trinidad de Cuba. She was always asking for lotion for her skin, so I brought her all I could gather. That’s how we became friends.
This year I learned that she broke her leg in 2014. (it must have been shortly after my visit). Nena had a metal rod placed in her leg to aid in healing. She’s had trouble ever since. Her leg did not heal well and became infected. A young woman on her street takes Nena’s monthly prescriptions to the pharmacy for her, but Nena has to pay for them. She prefers not to stand and can only walk with a shuffle.
I’m not above having a little fun. These two “posers” can be found in an alley just off Cathedral Square in Old Havana. It’s their spot. They let you sit with them while you get your picture taken and then harass you for money. I had Images from 2014 so I sat down and hammed it up. They loved the photos and small gifts I had for them and almost forgot to ask for money as I got away.
That’s exactly what we wondered as we approached this group of young men. Two of them were seated and unusually still while the others were gesturing and talking. As we drew closer, we observed one of them, with nothing but a razor blade, shaving the others head.
I have yet to learn the story, but I’ve seen a lot of amputees in Trinidad, Cuba. Men with hands and forearms missing hang out and pose for pictures, hoping for a tip.
We came upon this man very early one morning and liked the shadows cast by the street light. Our tripods were already in use so it was just a matter of having him hold still for a second. (literally).
I placed two CUCs in the man’s shirt pocket as we left. I hope he has someone he trusts to empty his pockets.
There are several “farmers markets” in Old Havana. An “L” shaped alley off Calle Sol in a busy, but poor neighborhood is one of the largest.
If Cubans have money they can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. It’s a daily flurry of activity and everyone is friendly. One young man gave me a demonstration of trimming yucca with his machete. Other men were busy cutting meat and wheeling crates in and out of the alley.
Cubans always asks tourists for soap. So what’s up with soap ?
We got a good explanation from a clerk in a government store.
Soap used to be included in the Cuban ration book. Which meant, in effect, Cubans were guaranteed the opportunity to purchase a specific amount of subsidized soap every month (if they had enough money).
A few years ago soap was dropped from the government ration book. Cubans can still purchase soap when its available, but it’s no longer subsidized and a lot more expensive. In Trinidad de Cuba I found a store well stocked with soap and purchased some “Zest” for 2.65 CUC per bar (one CUC is roughly equivalent to one USD). That’s expensive, even for Americans. Now consider that the average Cuban only earns 20.00 CUC per month and the problem becomes obvious.
Inside a typical Cuban government store.
A Cuban ration book and pesos.
Explaining the system to us.
Toothpaste, bath soap, and laundry soap.
In Cuba everything is recycled. There is no social conscience involved. Its survival. Everything is in short supply.
Aluminum cans are picked out of gutters and trash bins because they have value. However, they’re not worth what they are in the U.S. Recycling approximately 200 cans will get a Cuban only one Peso. That’s about one U.S. nickel.
One Cuban gentleman demonstrated his method. He carries around this heavy iron “doughnut” with a home-made handle and flattens the cans.