Sorry for the delay in getting this post up, but I had misplaced the cord that connects my camera to my laptop, enabling me to dump the photos into iPhotos. The pictures in the first Cuba post were taken with my cellphone.
Anyway, on with the show!
This was the first photo I took in Cuba. We were pullingÂ out of JosÃ© MartÃ International Airport in Havana, and I snapped this guy outside his house next to his 1957 Chevy. Â Â
We headed for ViÃ±ales, a little town some 100 miles southwest of Havana. Along the way, every few miles, I saw people standing along the side of the highway. Sometimes there would be a half-dozen or more, sometimes only one or two. Our guide explained that they were “hitchhikers”. These “hitchhikers”, it turns out, play a key role in Cuba’s economy.
For decades, the government took all the crops grown in Cuba, paying the farmers a pittance. They had confiscated all the land, so the crops were theirs. Naturally, agricultural production nosedived, as the farmers figured, “Why should I bust my ass in the fields when I don’t get to keep any of what I grow?” So a few years ago, the government eased up. They set quotas for the farmers, and anything the farmer grew beyond that quota, he got to keep.
Well, production shot up as the farmers were finally able to glean some meager reward for their labor. They fed their families and what was left over, they sold to “middlemen”, operating in the black market. These middlemen would come to each farm, buy up what they could carry–say, 40 pounds of rice–then hitchhike to the nearest city, where they had an established route of customers. Knocking on doors in urban neighborhoods, they would sell the rice one pound at a time, for less than what it cost in the state-owned stores. After whacking it up with the local government officials, themselves paid very poorly and looking for extra income, these middlemen make out quite nicely. Everybody gets a taste.
When we got to our hotel, I took a deep breath as I stepped out onto the balcony of my room and saw this:
After getting my breath back, I headed straight for the bar, where to my joy, they had Cuban baseball on TV:
I had this one shot of me against the stunning backdrop, the beauty that is Cuba.
The next day, we went to a tobacco farm. The ViÃ±ales Valley is the most fertile soil in the world for growing tobacco. It’s where all the best Cuban cigars come from. We took the bus into town, then walked about two miles through the countryside to the farm. On the outskirts of town, I saw this car. I couldn’t resist the photo:
We’ll pick this up next time. The tobacco farm was pretty cool and we heard some great music that same night.