In general, Cuban men frown on vasectomies and although prevention of births through education is the state's focus, family planning is a "nightmare," as described by our Cuban guide. With the over-sixty population around twenty percent, the state encourages babies, of course. However, young people can't rise economically (in 2017 the average Cuban salary was the equivalent of $27/month) and postpone having families. There are no more free layettes from the state and with child-support laws requiring only the equivalent of $2/month per child, divorce is high. Condoms are listed on menus at every cafe and bar. As one of our tour group quipped, "Coffee and condoms - five cents, please."
|Symbol for a B&B in Trinidad, with laundry drying on the roof|
|View from our hotel in Cienfuegos on south coast|
|Lobby of Hotel Sevilla, Havana|
|Even the statues play music in Havana|
|Star performers singing of their country and Mother's Day at their elementary school|
|Entertaining ourselves with music on a sugarcane train|
|Carmen and a local at a cafe during a rainstorm.|
Upon our arrival at the hotel we were served our first Mojitos, offered at every subsequent stop. There was only a whiff of something rum-flavored in our drinks. Our room was spacious with scaffolding outside our window, though no workers ever appeared. The floor tiles and toilet had large cracks (luckily we didn't fall through!); one of two elevators was cordoned off; and during torrential rains in the late afternoon two parties in our group had to mop their floor, due to leaky windows. One of us, "J," requested an envelope at the front desk. "No, no envelopes and no stationery," she heard. Instead the receptionist reached for a sheet of paper, folded it into approximate thirds, and stapled the ends. "Your envelope," she said, handing "J" her request. Two new hotels were being built near the waterfront, joint ventures between Spanish and French companies and the Cuban government.
We attended a lecture by retired architect/ professor Miguel Coyula. He opened his remarks by saying, "Havana is crumbling!"
|Typical apartment building, Havana|
|A study in contrasts.|
Two billion dollars flowed into Cuba through remittances from relatives in the States during the '90's, but the funds were used for "passive personal consumption" or put into hidden accounts, thereby avoiding taxes. "A disparity is growing between the population who has no foreign source of goods/funds and those who do or who leave for foreign jobs for 1-2 years, bringing their savings back with them," said the architect.
That evening we stopped at a bar in Old Havana named "The Small Grocery in the Middle of the Street" (La Bodeguita del Medito). A huge crowd hung out on the cobblestones, talking and drinking while a combo played inside. The city was perfectly safe at night (no guns, no crime). Hemingway frequented this bar while he lived in Havana with wife #4. We pressed against the crowd inside the open storefront to see what Hemingway had written on a piece of cardboard over the bar: "My Mojitos come from La Bodeguita. My daiquiris come from La Floridita" (another bar).
A blond American tourist spotted Tucker, one of our group who sported a white beard and white hair combed back behind his ears. "Hemingway!" she yelled above the salsa music, pointing at Tucker.
"Just call me Papa," he quipped.
"Hell, no! Never happen!" she yelled, turning her back in hasty retreat to the curb. We called Tucker "Papa" for the rest of the trip. To be continued...
|Our "Papa" Hemingway|