December 02, 2013

"Live" Blog of Yucatan/Cuba Trip, Day 6: Socialismo o Muerte

November 11, 2013
Today we visited an organic farm in the outskirts of Havana. It was pretty with bright red soil, and they served us a delicious lunch. During the food shortages post revolution, Castro set up a series of small urban farms to meet local demand. The one we visited is one of these, though it's now run collectively by the workers. They are mandated to sell a certain percentage of their food to the government, but the rest is theirs, and the profits likewise.


"What do they do with the bunnies?"
"Um . . . What do you think?"

Then we visited Hemingway's home. There are no polydactyl cats at this one, unlike the house in Key West, though there are a lot of inbred dogs. The house, reportedly, is exactly how he left it, and indeed it is fully furnished, right down to the selection of liquor. I may never understand the fascination with Hemingway, but I do have a picture of his toilet. Why not?  

This is Hemingway's bidet.

We had the afternoon and evening free so we went to the Museo de la Revolucion, which unfortunately I was in no mood to appreciate. I was grumpy because they made me check my purse, but for some reason not Bunny's. I also saw ones much bigger than mine. So I had nothing with me: no camera (they told me photography was forbidden, but told Bunny & Crow to go right ahead), no translator app (also on my phone), and I was worried that they would steal a 20 CUC bill from my purse, which they did.

The Museo de la Revolucion, with a piece of Havana's
old city wall in the foreground.

All in all the museum made me feel bad about my country some more, and even though I know to take these claims with a grain of salt, the socialist system in Cuba seems pretty good. I would trade some creature comforts, and the ability to become really rich, for a basic safety net that won't let me starve or go homeless or die for lack of medical care, and that will let everyone get a good education without going into debt. I don't even think I mind the educational system of choosing your top ten majors and being placed in one based on the need for that type of professional and your test scores. That seems fair and it would help to not produce a glut of professionals in one area who then can't find work. Cuba has a problem in that skilled professions tend to be paid by the government in relatively worthless Cuban Pesos, meaning that doctors and teachers and such make less than waiters, who are tipped in CUCs. This is pretty lousy, but the same is true here to a large degree. I make more money working in a bar than I did teaching college.

The view across the Bay of Havana.

After the museum we walked along the Maracon toward old Habana, as the sun set. We had a very excellent dinner at the paladar tour guide Michael recommended (whose name I will apparently never know), and then we had a drink with two Cubans, Josef and "Jack Daniels," who had accosted Crow earlier. Even though we all knew what was happening (that they wanted us to buy them a drink), we didn't mind because it was fascinating to chat with them about life in Havana. We also bought a box of "black market" cigars from them, which we have been told not to do [No, US Customs, if you're reading this, we did not bring any back with us]. But probably the story they told--that workers in the factory pay the guard to let them sneak a few out the back door--is true, which means it was a pretty good deal. I love that we did two of the things we were warned about at once, eyes open, and still didn't get ripped off.

Who needs a glass?

After that--and we had to extricate ourselves with some difficulty--we made our way to a brewery in the plaza vieja, where they serve beer in huge columns with a column of ice down the middle. We got a golden beer, 3 liters of it, and it was pretty good. Here there were many cats hanging around, though I think they had standard cat toes.



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