Cuban Postal Systems and Mail Boxes

Posting letters outside the Nuevitas Post Office

Posting letters into the Correos de Cuba box outside Nuevitas Post Office

The Cuban postal system (Correos de Cuba) is both a cheap way for locals to communicate and a source of foreign revenue. See, Cuba produces two sets of postcards and two corresponding postage rates:

  1. A touristic card aimed at foreigners costs approximately US1.50 to buy and post internationally
  2. A corresponding Cuban propaganda post card with the obligatory Fidel Castro or José Martí quote costs an unbelievably cheap ~US$0.06 (1.45 CUP) to purchase and send.

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Cuban Ingenuity and Repurposing

Bike chain lock on outdoor kitchen, Viñales

Bike chain lock on outdoor kitchen in Viñales

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

Cuba’s Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR)

Havana graffiti stating Viva CDR 28 (Long Live CDR 28)

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

Cuban Communist Country Products

During Rocío and my visit to Cuba we saw multiple old and modern artefacts from other communist or former communist countries. Considering Cuba’s post-revolution political alignment and the United States embargo this should not have been a surprise.

Communist Crockery

A tip for those visiting Cuba: at your guest house check under the china for its origin. With limited access to goods, Cubans often keep items for decades, including their stoneware. We noticed this at our first meal in Cuba with crockery made in Czechoslovakia, a European country last existing in 1992.

Crockery made in Czechoslovakia at our first Havana guest house

Crockery made in Czechoslovakia at our first Havana guest house

At Santiago de Cuba we used a porcelain coffee set produced in Bulgaria, most likely from its pre-1990 communist period. Continue reading

Buildings of Havana, Cuba

The Neo-Mudéjar Ursulinas Palace (Palacio de las Ursulinas) building in Old Havana

The Neo-Mudéjar Ursulinas Palace (Palacio de las Ursulinas) building in Old Havana (Habana Vieja)

To my untrained eye, Havana’s buildings were special. To architect Rocío’s, they were inspiring. Interesting buildings or aspects of buildings appeared around almost every corner and this blog post documents a tiny proportion of them. Continue reading

Doors of Havana, Cuba

Restored doors with lion door knockers

Restored doors with lion door knockers

The architectural styles, history and condition of Cuba’s buildings and objects, particularly in Havana, inspired architect Rocío. She loved the facades, iron work, cornices, balconies, tiles, door knockers, stairs and, especially, the doors. Continue reading

Tiles of Havana, Cuba

Havana’s historical richness and post-revolution politics and economics have combined to provide an unprecedented amount and variety of buildings in original condition, including their wall and floor ceramics.

Following are some of many examples we saw of Havana’s old tiles:

Dragon tiles originating from Spain

Dragon tiles originating from Spain

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Classic Cars in Havana, Cuba

Tourist couple in classic convertible hire car driving past El Capitolio

Tourist couple in classic convertible hire car driving past El Capitolio

It maybe stereotypical but it’s true, Havana is full of classic United States cars from the 1950s and earlier. Historic economic and political anomalies led to Havana (and Cuba as a whole) being the best place in the world for such vehicles. Cubans can’t import auto-mobiles privately so they do everything they can to keep their old cars running.

Blue Chevrolet in front of yellow building

Blue 1950s Chevrolet in front of yellow building

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