From November 2016 to January 2017 Rocío and I experienced an unbelievable trip to Cuba. This post summarises the holiday and includes links to many stories and highlights.
The aptly named book Cuba: The Land of Miracles by Stephen Smith; although from an earlier time, Cuba’s essence remained as described in the book
From reading about Cuba beforehand I had some idea what it would be like. I knew there would be limited supplies available and that the country had two currencies and a bad reputation for food. In the weeks before leaving I repeatedly advised Rocío that Cuba was different, so much so, I almost felt like a broken record. However, it was important that we were prepared as well as we could be. After all, we planned to be there for almost two months! Continue reading →
I love bromeliads. Members of the Bromeliaceae family, they impress me with their range of leaves and flowers. The different environments they are found also fascinate including on trees, rocks and even wires. Cuba’s tropical climate and varying environments ensure it has many bromeliads, both wild and in gardens. Cuba also grows the most commercial and famous bromeliad: the pineapple.
Truck with plain, brand-less bags of water crackers in Pinar del Río
Post-Revolution, Cuba has been run as a totalitarian state with the government controlling all production and distribution. With no competition, such a system has little place for advertising or branding. In addition, Cuba’s mass media is all state-owned and commercial-free. Indeed, Cuba’s marketing expertise lies in propaganda. Interestingly, propaganda in Spanish translates as advertising.
Only recently have Cubans had self-employment options, planting tiny capitalistic seeds and increasing branding and advertising’s importance. Now many Cubans run their own restaurants, guest-houses, transport and other businesses. Below are selected advertisements, signs and brands from Rocío and my visit. Continue reading →
Cubans are great at recycling, reusing, repurposing and modifying objects to extend their usefulness. The limited availability of resources caused by both the communist state policies and US embargo have forced their frugality and ingenuity. This was especially true when the Soviet Union collapsed, causing the 1990s Special Period when extreme rationing occurred.
This hardship-induced resourcefulness has had a positive consequence of lower waste levels, reducing environmental pollution.
Following are some of the examples of frugality and ingenuity Rocío and I saw on our Cuba trip. Continue reading →
Shopping in Cuba involves buying what is available, not what one desires. Stores have limited variety, especially those aimed at Cubans. An extreme example of this was the bakery Rocío and I saw selling only one line of bread. Continue reading →
Havana graffiti proclaiming Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)
Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (Comités de Defensa de la Revolución), otherwise known as CDR, exist in every Cuban neighbourhood. Established on 28 September 1960, less than a year after the Cuban Revolution, the volunteer-run committees monitor and report on counter-revolutionary activity and promote social welfare. Stephen Smith’s Cuba: The Land Of Miracles quotes a BBC reporter aptly describing the CDR as “a cross between the neighbourhood watch and the Gestapo”.
During our visit, Rocío and I witnessed many CDR references throughout the island. Continue reading →