One of the first things I notice as we walk through Santa Clara is that everyone is wearing a mask. A COVID mask that is. Everyone. And we are outside headed towards the central plaza. No one seems to be complaining. There are a few, very few, with the mask not covering their nose. Maybe this is why Cuba hasn’t had as bad a time as the rest of the world. Communism, one for all and all for one? As recommended by Omelio, we are also wearing our masks.
As we head away from the center toward the Che memorial the next thing that strikes me is the noise. The streets are narrow and almost all of the buildings are concrete and the ambient noise reverberates and we can hardly hear what each other is saying.
I don’t know if there is a crew that picks up the trash on the street, if people don’t throw trash on the street or if there is not enough trash generated to cause a mess but the streets are very clean. Even the empty lots and waterways are garbage free.
Communism again. We are out an around on a Friday. There seem to be a lot more people on the street that we see working. That said there are 5 people per station at the Che museum, where in Canada there would be one. Mostly they looked pretty bored but they did jump to when we approach.
The entire city could use a coat of paint. Don’t know whether this is because there is little paint to be had or because people have other priorities to spend their money on, but peeling paint seems to be the preferred aesthetic. Debbie came up with the idea that each person should get an allotment of paint each year to beautify their surroundings.
I don’t know what it is with Spanish people and the volume of the TV but whenever a TV is on the entire block know what show is playing and what action is taking place.
This is not a complaint. In fact, I wish it were true for more places in the world. We would be force to learn the language of the host country and maybe expand our brains a little but very few people speak English. The people involved with tourists speak enough to communicate but still struggle with some words. Even the kids, a usual source of English in a foreign country only speak a few words. I did run into one young fellow today that spoke impeccable English but his is definitely the exception.
Things are very cheap in Cuba. We have travelled in countries that are supposed to be inexpensive, especially when you live somewhat like the locals but we spent less than $30US for the entire day, room, food, entertainment (as it was). I don’t ever remember spending that little and I have traveled extensively for 35 years.
The ‘irregular’ (black) market is the way the financial dealings work here. If you go by the legal system and exchange your foreign currency at the bank you will find things 4 times more expensive. If you trade it on the street you can live like a king. All the locals do that anyway. And by the by, contrary to every internet article I read the US dollar is not only accepted here but preferred. Euros are supposedly good as well but I cannot speak to that because I did not bring any. Canadian dollars are OK but that is all.
When preparing for this trip I read so much conflicting and confusing information I was quite apprehensive to set foot in this country but after one day here it is pretty much like most places we go and all my angst disappeared. A few more days of this and we should know most of the ropes.
Note from Debbie – In 2016, while in Bolivia, we spent a few days following the path Che Guevera took in his failed revolution attempt. We saw where he was shot, held, died and where his body lay. It seemed appropriate that we visit the final resting place of Che. In Santa Clara, there is a huge statue, memorial and museum dedicated to him. So our story of Che is complete now.