2 Cubans Left in Cuba

I have this underlying feeling that all Cubans are trapped.  I still don't know enough about the past and present reality of the situation to fully comprehend the extent of the their trapped-ness though.


The Australian I met rode around in one of 1950s almendrones cars - which as it turns out are ALL either shared taxis or taxis meant for tourists.  She was telling me that she hadn’t heard anyone say anything bad about Fidel but during that ride the driver said that if Cubans were allowed to leave and go to America, there’d only be two Cubans left, Fidel and Raul.  

Funny but heartbreaking.  In so many ways.  

Wifi also known as Wee Fee

Internet, wireless or otherwise, is a luxury in Cuba.

Lined up along a building on Obispo Street using the wifi.

When people say that there’s isn’t any Internet in Cuba they aren’t kidding and the idea of free wifi is an absurd one. 

The government controls everything about the internet, from who can access, at what cost, the bandwidth speed, and what sites are censored (although they might not call it that.)

The legal way of accessing the internet is to wait in line at the ETECSA to buy an internet scratch off card.  Once you find a hotspot - outside along the exterior of random buildings (and not every building, I'd say it was usually a good 15 - 20 minute walk between the hotspots that I found and knew of) - you could then login into the wifi network using the ETECSA login and password on your scratch off card.  The alternative to standing in the long ETECSA lines was to find someone selling the scratch off cards on the blackmarket.  Which wasn't hard to do at all.  As a tourist all it took for me was to wander around the wifi hotspot until someone quietly inquired, "Weefee?"  I'd hand over my 3.00 CUCs and the deal was done.  

If you're willing to stand in line I believe you can get the cards for a little cheaper, maybe 2.00 or 2.50 CUCs but the long lines never looked appealing.  

Each card bought you 60 minutes of time online.  You could also use the internet at some hotels, though the only places I found this to be true were state run hotels, never a casa particular.  Which makes sense given that casa particulars are private rooms rented from a family and it's said that only 5% of Cubans have access to the Internet let alone 24/7 access in-home.  I bought internet time when I was at the Hotel Nacional which cost 20.00 CUCs (the equivalent of $20 USD) for 24 hours but didn't realize that once I checked out of the hotel that I forfeited all the extra time I had purchased but didn't use.  Unfair in my mind, but I was in Cuba.  The connection at the Hotel Nacional was so weak that you'd have to login in at least five times in 30 minutes.  Later when I wasn't a guest at the hotel but wanted to get online I paid something like 5.00 CUCs for 15 minutes!  I thought this was absurdly expensive, imagine making 25.00 CUCs a month which is the average official salary of a someone in Cuba.  It's no wonder only 5% of the country has access to the internet.

It’s insane to think that the government has control over the whole thing.  Cuba Libre?

The loooong slow line for wifi scratch off cards sold by ETECSA

2 August

[ 2 August 2016 - Tuesday ] 

23:46 last night: Okay this hotel went from gloriously amazing to stifling hot hell hole.  The power went out and now there’s no AC, which isn’t the end of the world but there isn’t even a fan or any moving air….

7:02

I survived the night…the AC came back on not long after I wrote my desperate note.  I don’t know why but I don't sleep well at night and it takes me forever to fall asleep.  Then my mind always wanders to anxiety inducing thoughts of the dogs darting into the streets or Martin getting into a car accident.  It’s horrible!  It seems that everyone but me has checked out of the hotel this morning.  I need to ask Orlando to let me know if something opens up for the night of the 12th.  I think they are converting the entire ground level to be included in the hostel.  I looked down to the courtyard through the open windows and it looks like the same aesthetic.  The floors…heart eyes! The doors are still unpainted wood and they look lovelier that way.

My trip is half over now. To take the pressure of getting everything I need in one go, I’ve told myself that I’ll come back for a shorter duration sometime around November.  Maybe convince my sister to join me since the Army told Martin “No!” - the evenings might be a little more exciting with a partner in crime to explore the after dark scene with. I feel like I have a good grasp on what I’m looking for though and what I’m going to be exhibiting.  My only worry is that my photos aren’t going to good enough quality.  I don’t take terrible photos but I’m definitely not a photographer.  At this point I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing though, my days are still mostly spent walking around, going into galleries, snooping for provocative street art and political banners.  

I had two great meals here!  And of course thought that the name was pretty clever. (:

Cardboard robot on display at a small gallery

The gallery also had a classroom

After the rainstorm

Bohemia Magazine - Cuba (and Latin America's) oldest magazine highly censored by the government, like everything else in the press.  Yoani Sanchez writes more about it here.

Mural of Che...assuming the frown was added later. 

20:12

This morning, over by where I check my email on Obispo, I saw a starving and obviously dying dog.  It made me cry then and makes me cry thinking about him now.  People had tried to give him food but he wasn’t interested.  I bought a water and gave him nearly all of it, which he did drink, but I’m not sure if it helped or just prolonged his misery.  I gave him a good back of the ear scratch too.  When I went back this evening he had moved but just further down the building and was still lying there.  It’s clouded my whole day.  I feel like a coward for not doing anything else for him.  I feel overwhelmed by the unfairness of everything.  How I’m reacting to this trip isn’t how I anticipated.  I thought it would be really simple and easy to be alone and working for three weeks. 

I did meet the cutest older man who I didn’t understand but probably 30% of what he was telling me.  I stumbled upon his shop, which sold old photos, books, etc.  I bought an image of Che holding a camera for 3.00 CUCs.  He spent all this time going through these old images of tv stars and singers - people had photographed the image of them off their tvs, you could see the tv surround!  He couldn’t believe that I didn’t know who Celia Cruz was.  And we discussed, term loosely used, whether Hemingway was from Oak Park in Michigan.  In the case that he was, maybe I need to not ignore him…lol.  As far it stands now I don’t hold the greatest impression of the man and don’t really feel a strong urge to go visit any of his ol’ watering holes.  I want to go back and to find some way to use those images and his charming little bookstore.  

Many Cubans of West African descent follow the Santería religion and I think that the bird has something to do with it.  Although even Googling after returning home can't confirm or deny my assumption.   Maybe it's just an omen of good luck because I've also seen this done in other Latin American countries.  Anyone know?

Entrance to the market

Look at those nouveau (or deco?) tiles!

The cute little bookshop of the older gentleman who totally schooled me on Hemingway being from Michigan and early 20th century singers. (: