Thursday, 22 August 2013

Cienfuegos, Cuba

Our bus from Trinidad to Cienfuegos left at 10:30 leaving us enough time to fit in breakfast at our Casa before we left... now to most that would seem a blessing but we have started to find the breakfasts to be hard to get through, not the quality of food but sheer quantity. They are all pretty similar: a plate of tropical fruit, now we are taking a big plate with 3 or 4 different fruits including mango, guava, pineapple, banana, papaya, watermelon and more accompanied with fresh mango, guava or pineapple juice. After what is already to much fruit (we are getting our 5 serves right there) it is into eggs (optional, but a good way to help you through the fruit with some savoury), then coffee with bread, meats, cheese, maybe a crepe, and at one some very tasty biscuits. It is literally 30 min of non stop eating, which was great for the first few days but it is getting hard after so many. And you cannot say no, the Casas are very proud of providing a good start to the day!

So after battling our way through breakfast and an uneventful bus ride we arrived at Casa de Las Golondrinas with hosts Victor & Sosa. We dumped or bags and headed out for a bit of exploring. with only one night we didn't have a lot of time, and unfortunately as the bus arrived at midday we were doing our wandering in heat enough to make cacti wilt. Never the less we powered on and ended up wandering around the main city streets and then onto the malecon around the bay. We were getting pretty hot so took a break for some surprisingly good service and lunch at the Club Cienfuegos where some very fancy private yachts moor (we assume visitors to Cuba not locals) it was surprising because it is government run.

Afterwards we continued down in search of a bar to seek respite from the sun and have a few cervesa. We instead found a park at the end of the point the road was following with many locals enjoying a swim in the cooling water and generally relaxing. We decided to join them (for the hanging on the swimming) and were happy to find a gazebo bar where we enjoyed cervesa and some expertly made mojitos and daiquiris made by some very friendly fellas. Just as we were enjoying them a refreshing thunder storm arrived. Perfecto. After the rain petered out, we started our walk back to town only to be talked into a bike taxi ride back instead. On the way the driver/rider told us in very good English some of the plights of Cuban people. He himself used to be a history teacher, but only being paid 12 CUC, found it was not enough to support a family, so he quit and is a bike taxi instead, which can net him 40 CUC a month after paying the government some fee or tax and a kind of forced super. In comparison doctors get 25 CUC from the government (but we think are given gifts payments from patients), lawyers 22, and beating them all: the military get 80-100 CUC! Viva la revolucion.  He also somewhat explained how housing worked, he and his sister were lucky enough to have inherited their grandmother's house (no idea how she got it), but they don't seem to own it but instead inherited the lease, so they can rent it from the government for 5 CUC a month. If you want do indeed want to buy a house you have to have the entire amount up front, you can imagine how far out of reach this is when people earn 18 CUC a month and have to save for months to buy shoes or clothes. Puts it into perspective why Roberto in Santa Clara was keen for t-shirts.

Despite all of this he says Cuban people are happy - and apart from the government workers certainly seems is true. He was also quite open in saying that Raul has been a positive influence, implementing changes that mean people like him can earn more money than before by working as taxi drivers or Casa owners. His opinion was that after Fidel dies things will change. The people will want change, perhaps because the end of Fidel represents the end of the first revolution, and the next generations can then make their mark on Cuban history. His only concern was that the US would use force or threat of force to overtake Cuba... a fear we think not accurate, however we can imagine the US using its (capitalist) power to exert influence on the next Cuban government to encourage outcomes that are in the best interests to the USA, but not the downtrodden Cubans. After our interesting ride we kicked back at our Casa on the rooftop terrace enjoying more mojitos with dinner then had a quiet night before or bus ride back to Havana.

The Cienfuegos Malecon

Hanging in the park

More park

Scruffy Paul with a Mojito and nuts in a cone

Some of the stunning French Colonial architecture, everywhere else is Spanish

Our dinner spread on the Casa terrace - black beans, chicken with pineapple, fritters and trimmings

1 comment:

  1. Loving reading about your trip. The photos are all fantastic too!