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Alas, this will be my last photo tour through Cuba. I suppose it’s fitting that I’d forgot to post this last chapter sooner considering that the entire series would have been published a few years ago…. had I not forgotten then. Better late than never I suppose! Below are the pictures of a day spent in the Escambray Mountains, near Trinidad. The region is probably most known for being the site of a long rebellion against Castro’s regime. Perhaps it will surprise you to hear that nobody mentioned that while I was there…
The property below is the home of a small family. It was located on the hiking trail, and an arrangement between the family and the tour guides allowed us to walk through. We were even allowed inside their home.
I’d assume that the little structure next to the man above is an outhouse. The couple interior shots I got of their home are below.
Our guide for the day was the lovely Lenia. On meeting her, she told us that she was named after Vladimir Lenin by her father, a committed Communist. Without any bitterness, she explained that she was not. My favorite story she told was about the day before guiding her first group of Americans. When she was first given the news, she was initially unmoved.
“Oh, okay. Where from?”
She expected the answer to be Ecuador. Or Mexico. Perhaps Chile.
“America. Like, America-America.”
This changed things.
Lenia went on to explain that her evening involved what felt like a few hours in front of the mirror, trying out different poses and phrases, hoping to catch the one that would make the right impression on the aliens she was about to meet. Should she cross her arms and strike a cool pose? Or perhaps hands clasped behind the back. Then there was the question of what to say. Should she lead with a casual “Hey!”? Or “Yo”? Perhaps formal would be the way to go.
There was plenty I had seen and heard during my trip to illustrate that Cubans, as a whole, had a pretty good opinion of Americans, but before hearing Lenia’s story, I hadn’t realized how much respect some of them had for us. The young people, for instance, clearly liked the idea of better consumer goods, and especially the idea of a constant, lavish party, but I got the sense that older Cubans appreciated the fact that we can make up our minds about our experiences. Cubans fortunate enough to have jobs take a lot of pride in them, so impressing an American – a person who can easily take their business elsewhere, one who is not so easily impressed – that’s special!
Unfortunately, the stories weren’t all happy. Lenia’s brother had recently escaped the country, leaving his sister and brother-in-law as the sole caretakers for her ailing mother. Apparently the brother did so by saving a large sum to travel to Canada, and then simply stayed. Cubans have to pay the government tremendous fees in order to even be allowed to travel outside the country. Canada, the country her brother chose, may have cost a few thousand on top of the travel expenses.
Further, after the hike, Lenia came with us to the house of our guide for the trip. She explained to me that this is not very common. The reason is because the people who she relies on for work (like Carlos) are generally well-connected and much wealthier; they prefer to avoid letting people below the chain see that. Carlos’s home was on a spectacular piece of land, but the home and its interior would appear to most of us as plain-old poverty. Nonetheless, Lenia’s eyes were wide.
“This is money!” She whispered in my ear.
Below is some construction that our main guide, Carlos, was working on at his property. He told me that he had originally hired workers from Havana, but they were terribly slow. He had since taken this project, as well as digging up a pool, on himself. (Keep in mind, this is the guy who Lenia said is wealthy – even being so ain’t worth much it seems.
This is the view from our main guide’s house.
The Road to Havana:
I highly recommend bringing an abundance of two things with you if you visit Cuba before the regime goes. The first is soap – it’s what virtually every beggar asks for. The other is candy! Cuban children are very cute, and Cubans are a lot less suspicious of adults they don’t know giving candy to their kids.
Thanks for checking this out. I’ll link the previous chapters in the comments.
I hope you enjoyed.Published in