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 →
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.
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
At Santiago de Cuba we used a porcelain coffee set produced in Bulgaria, most likely from its pre-1990 communist period. Continue reading →
For six decades the United States of America has imposed an embargo (el bloqueo in Spanish) on Cuba. Separated by less than 200 kilometres, this action by the world’s largest economy has heavily restricted Cuba’s commercial, economic and financial options. The embargo has also shaped modern Cuba’s uniqueness as a country and provided the totalitarian Cuban government with a convenient (and sometimes legitimate) bogeyman to blame. During our Cuba visit, Rocío and I saw several examples of anti-blockade propaganda.
Young Communist League (UJC) sticker on wall in Old Havana stating yo voto vs bloqueo (I vote against the embargo)
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 →
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 →
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: