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.

Cannons reused as bollards in Havana

Cannons reused as bollards in Old Havana

Cannonball bollard in Old Havana

A cannonball bollard in Old Havana

Palm leaves used as a screen to shield world leaders arriving to Fidel Castro's Havana memorial

Palm leaves used as a screen to shield world leaders arriving to Fidel Castro’s Havana memorial

Bike in Baracoa with a wooden second seat added

Bike in Baracoa with a wooden second seat added

Baracoa bicycle with wooden second seat in use

Another Baracoa bicycle, this time the wooden seat is being used

Plant pots made from animal skulls, plastic bottles and lids and a tin can at Jardín de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba

Plant pots made from animal skulls, plastic bottles and lids and a tin can at Jardín de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba

Hook rack behind bathroom door in Havana house made from binder rings

Hook rack made from binder rings behind bathroom door in a Havana house

Roasting spit in Old Havana made from scrap timber, piping and corrugated metal

Roasting spit in Old Havana made from scrap timber, piping and corrugated metal

Both sides of a give way sign in Havana made out of paint tins

Both sides of a give way sign in Havana made out of old paint cans

Rotary clotheslines designed for balconies in Pinar del Río

Rotary clotheslines designed for balconies and welded from reinforcing rod in Pinar del Río

Rug made from rags in Havana

A colourful rug made from rags in Havana

Styrofoam balcony divider in Havana

White polystyrene foam divides a shared Havana balcony

Litter bin made from palm leaves and sticks in Soroa

This Soroa litter bin is constructed from palm leaves and sticks

Custom-made novelty advertising bikes in Havana

Custom-made novelty advertising bikes in Havana

Cardboard providing comfort and insulation on seat in Havana

Cardboard giving an old seat new life in Havana

A carry bag made from rice packaging in Santiago de Cuba

A carry bag made from packaging originally used to import Argentinean rice, Santiago de Cuba

Baracoa chocolate wrapped with pharmaceutical aluminium foil

A Baracoa chocolate bar wrapped with pharmaceutical aluminium foil

Cuban flag used as a window curtain in Baracoa

A Cuban flag provides a makeshift curtain for this Baracoa house

Boys playing baseball on Santiago de Cuba street using a stick for a bat and small, plastic medicine bottles for balls

Boys playing baseball on a Santiago de Cuba street using a stick for a bat and small, plastic medicine bottles for balls

Home-made horse-drawn wagon using car wheels, springs and other parts in Baracoa

A home-made horse-drawn wagon using car wheels and other spare parts in Baracoa

Drink glasses cut from Havana Club rum bottles, Pinar del Río

Drink glasses cut from Havana Club rum bottles, Pinar del Río

Corona beer bottles cut to create juice glasses at Baracoa café

Corona beer bottles cut to create juice glasses at Baracoa café

Bench seat plank replaced with a piece of hewn timber at Museo Arqueológico La Cueva del Paraíso, Baracoa

A bench seat plank replaced with a piece of hewn timber at Museo Arqueológico La Cueva del Paraíso, Baracoa

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