On our ship, we had a lecturer to talk about Cuba lifestyle, safety, and what they think of Americans. She stated, “the Cubans like Americans. They don’t hold the embargo issues against the American people. They understand it’s a government thing.” She described the Cubans as warm and friendly people. Next, she talked about how safe Cuba is. First of all, they are not allowed to have weapons. If someone does, the punishment means immediately being sent to prison. Of course one should be aware of your surroundings. Like other countries, pickpocketers roam the streets.
From our walks through the old town we did feel safe. In the evenings, lots of people are outside and I do have to say I felt a little awkward as we walked by but was not threatened or approached in any way. As usual on our travels, we got lost. 🙂 So, I went up to someone and asked if they spoke English, which he did, and with a smile directed us back to the main road.
The above photo is a gas station. Gas cost $6.00 a liter and Diesel is $4.00 a liter. A lot of the old classic cars gas tanks have been changed to diesel. The car we rode in had not been changed. As we rode around as one might expect, the government buildings looked great. Apartments and individual homes, not so good. Before anyone makes an assumption that the Cuban people are lazy people, I want to share with you what is going on.
The average wage for a Cuban can range from $18.00 – $25.00 dollars a month. A month! They do get a ration book for food that may last 2 weeks. That’s it. Do the math. There isn’t any extra to buy paint, cement or whatever they might need to repair their homes. Also on that note, there is no Home Depot or Lowes. The Internet is sparse, so no shipments from Amazon is coming down. Yes, there is a black market but are mainly for items they need.
One of our tour guide has an Education Degree and was an English teacher for several years. His salary was $25.00 dollars a month. It didn’t matter if he stayed after school and worked longer, did bus duty, or cafeteria duty that’s all he was paid. He quit his teaching job to become a tour guide because he would still get $25.00 a month but as a guide, he would get tips. The tips would help him to get the food, clothes, or whatever he needed for his family. Our other guide was in college studying to become an Architectural Draftsman. She was happy to learn that is what Rusty use to do and they could talk “shop”. She will make $25.00 a month and is hoping to keep being a tour guide to make extra money through tips.
As mention to us several times, life is hard in Cuba. Yes, life can be hard where ever we live. In America, we have more choices about how to deal with our hardships. I’ll go into more details about the choices the Cuban people have in my next blog.