|Our group at the U. Havana, minus our guide Amit|
Amit informed us we would be flying into Santa Clara rather than Cienfuegos, because the latter had not been rebuilt after Hurricane Irma ravaged it in 2017 as a category 5 storm.
Upon arrival we were interviewed and photographed individually. A doctor and a nurse collected our health forms. Our Visa forms had been stamped in Miami and would be collected when we departed Havana. We met our Cuban guide, whose name I will not include. He traveled with us the entire week. In perfect English, he explained that due to regulations, Professor Ted and Amit would not be allowed to give us lectures. "I was a teacher of English as a foreign language," he told us, "before I became a tour guide. I earned the equivalent of $23/month in Cuban pesos as a teacher. Now I earn the equivalent of $20/month. We have to become creative." We assumed the change in professions was due to the tips he now kept. Our guide supported his wife and two children, as well as his mother and father. We appreciated his honesty and during the week asked any questions that popped into our heads. "I will try to answer you honestly," he said, "but I may not have an answer or you may not like the answer."
|View from our window toward Bay of Cienfuegos on Cuba's south coast|
Cuba is almost 800 miles long, the largest island in the Caribbean. We drove two hours south to the coast and checked into the Hotel Jagua on the Bahia (Bay) of Cienfuegos. Our room cost around $150/night in the high season. By U.S. standards it would have been a three-star hotel. The door to our room had no bolt (however, there is never a safety issue, even at night on the streets - no guns are sold on the island and crime is nonexistent); public toilets in the lobby had backed up without a sign; SIMS cards for Wi-Fi were not available, "but maybe tomorrow."
|Mansion confiscated by Fidel's revolution on the grounds of our hotel.|
The following day we drove east along the coast to the town of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Foothills of mountains rose to our left and the Caribbean teased to our right. It was the land where Fidel had gathered his revolutionaries, hiding in caves. His portrait was universal, along with Che's. Despite reports of stark-white, deserted beaches, we didn't have time to savor them.
|Art gallery, Trinidad|
|Local transportation, Trinidad|
|Ration cards in a government redemption grocery|
|Local transportation and hat seller, Trinidad|
While in the redemption grocery, I tried to get a photo. I bent down to lean on the counter, where a scale rested for purchases. The counter was black with flies, feasting on the gritty sugar.
|Flea market, Trinidad|
|Main square, Trinidad|
|Street scene, Trinidad|
|The birdman of Trinidad (with dozens of filled cages), selling hats from his three-room house.|
|Statue mimes, Trinidad|
To be continued...