For those who have been to any other Caribbean island, what’s remarkable about Cuba is its size. It is much bigger than, say, Puerto Rico.
Three hours to the west, in Pinar del Río, are the tobacco farms. Four hours to the south and west is the town of Cienfuegos on the southern coast. We decided these destinations were too far to make for a relaxing day trip. Instead, we chose to stay in the province of Mayabeque (which is the eastern half of La Habana, shown above) and selected, at random, to visit the towns of Güines and Zaragoza.
At the hotel one simply asks for a taxi. The driver who showed up was Massimo. When Phillip – our Spanish speaker – told him our itinerary, he said he came from San José, which was on the way to the other towns, and called ahead so that we could have coffee at a friend’s house and ice cream at his sister’s.
These two visits were wonderful experiences.
Upon arriving in San José, we parked next to a house with the following sign:
We went to the property next door, walked into a courtyard with chickens in cages, and walked up a flight a stairs to this balcony:
Inside we met the girls along with their mother and father. I didn’t take pictures of them because I thought it would be rude.
But here’s David in what I am going to call their front parlor:
We chatted a good half-hour or more before receiving coffee, with Phillip doing all the translating. I didn’t learn their names, and I don’t know what the man of the house does, but I do know that the woman of the house is a dentist. She earns 60 CUC/month, which doesn’t sound like much, but then no one pays rent or utilities or anything for medical service or medicine itself. It also seemed as if these people owned their house, whatever ownership might mean in Cuba.
They were completely charming and were happy to meet and speak with us. We did learn that the man of the house had traveled to Russia at least once. He bought clothes and perhaps automobile parts for the many Ladas that are still on the road. I think the government regulates how many car parts an individual can bring into the country to sell.
As we left I noticed a market across the way:
At Massimo’s sister’s house we chilled:
We also watched TV, a Venezuelan channel, I think.
You can only imagine the opinions we heard from Cubans on the US political situation.
We drove through Güines …
… and had no reason to stop then it was on to Zaragoza, which looked like this when we googled it:
On the way back we had car trouble:
A passer-by sells some gas to Massimo:
Then Massimo’s twin brother shows up to fill ‘er up:
We’re good to go and we’re hungry. Massimo takes us to a wonderful spot for lunch.
Which, of course, has live music:
Then back to the hotel where we found a good restaurant in the neighborhood, had our mojitos and dinner … and then passed a line of young women who could only be hookers, whose clientele, we speculated, given the amount of Russian we heard in the restaurant, was Russian.
A bang-up day in Cuba. We saw Güines and Zaragoza.
See also: All My Cuba Blogs
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen