The color of the highway

With the end of the year the price of pork soars, pickpockets ramp up their activities and inter-provincial transportation is a dirty word. We discovered that as December 31 nears, the lines to buy a ticket lengthen and on the highway it becomes more difficult to hitch a ride. On the roads out of Havana, individuals or entire families pile up, loaded with suitcases. Many of them return to their home towns to celebrate the last night of 2009. They return, for a few days, to the place they left behind due to financial difficulties, work or marriage.

While the purchase of thousands of Yutong buses, some years ago, was intended to solve transportation in Cuba, moving from one place to another on the Island is still an odyssey. A ticket from the capital to the province of Camaguey can cost half a month’s wages, and condemn us to the narrow seats of these Chinese buses, irregular air conditioning, and the blaring sound of reggaeton from their horns. To these inconveniences, add the checkpoints on the highway, which popular mischief has baptized CAT scans because they are capable of finding a package of shrimp hidden between the plump breasts of a buxom old woman. By the end of the year, the shady dealing of the black market peaks and the police make a killing confiscating, fining, and even keeping what they’ve taken from the intrepid merchants of cheese, lobster, meat, milk and eggs.

On both sides of the road connecting one province with another, one sees the outstretched hands offering bills, blowing in the wind. Those who couldn’t even afford a ticket for the train stand anywhere along the highway, hoping someone will stop. There one sees the blue of a twenty, and further on two fifties; a girl waves only a ten, so she won’t have a chance if she doesn’t raise her offer, or raise her skirt a little. Luck smiles on a few when a tourist car comes along, needing a guide because of the lack of signage on the roads. But foreign visitors, fearing assault, prefer couples, or women with children. So men have to wait for truck or a cart that wants to take them.

At the end of the day, several of these improvising passengers will be seated at the table in a small house, or preparing yucca for the St. Sylvester dinner. When the first sun of the new year dawns, they will be back on the highway, raising a hand which, now, probably no longer has bills to show.


41 thoughts on “The color of the highway

  1. @#31
    yeap … not only “we are doing well” also “everyone is with us” …
    “Everyone is with us” because “we are doing well” why would it be any other way?
    And … “we are doing well” because “everyone is with us” … what else is there?
    I am going to miss this regime of self brain washed brutes, their entretainement value is inmense.
    I can envision a sitcom where the next door neighbor is a “retired” dictator, with his “yes” people around him.
    The premise to be His/their adjustment to a new life of freedom, for the dictator but … not for the “yes” crownd.
    … what should we name the main “persona” …?
    The fun will be the choice of actors to play this brutes & since there must be politically correct …
    Any suggestions …?

  2. The “cuban 5”
    Those were the ones caught, do we know how many more are out there?
    The street goes both ways … so chances are the US has spies in Cuba.
    That been said: capture of a spiy means in most countries either expulsion or jail depending on the relations between the countries involved.
    In the case of Israel it seems to be an exchange where hte promise of never “leaving even one behind” is considered an option.
    I the US, is a question of law.
    The 5 were caught, factual proof or their activities was found and shown in court.
    They are kept in jail because they were not only gulity of spying, but of being inept, poorly supported by their goverment not to mention of having the cheap equipment that their goverment can afford.
    The mission must have not been that important.
    To me, a simple mind is a case closed, they knew the risk, they accepted (no matter what motivated them) their mission … here they are.
    So, what is the problem?
    To trade them for prisioners? tools
    To use them as propaganda? tools
    To call them heroes? tools & fools
    Did anyone get what they wanted?
    Aside from what they learned from the places they infiltrated … nothing more.
    The question is: what is the goverment of Cuba looking for? & what is the US knows?
    The equilibrium of such a tight rope dance is interesting but distracting.
    No one has gained anything in the transaction (in the surface) but … what is realy going on?

  3. Here is an article from The Miami Herald that tells a lot about the “good intentions” of the Cuban leader toward better relation with The United States.
    The reason I want you to be aware of this article and to read it, is to show you that Cuba is not in the bit interested in better relation with this country.
    Those of us who still think we can persuade and negotiate with Cuba, better wake up and smell the coffee. Here is the tread to the article, copy and paste the following:

  4. In traditional usage, the cult of a religion, quite apart from its sacred writings (“scriptures”), its theology or myths, or the personal faith of its believers, is the totality of external religious practice and observance, the neglect of which is the definition of impiety. Cult in this primary sense is literally the “care” (Latin cultus) owed to the god and the shrine. In the specific context of Greek hero cult, Carla Antonaccio has written, “The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Ritual behavior would include (but not necessarily be limited to) prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for cult to be enacted, to be practiced

  5. Socialism is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the economy works. Democracy is liberal. More people (preferably everyone) have some say in how the government works. “Democracy,” said Marx, “is the road to socialism.” He was wrong about how economics and politics interact, but he did see their similar underpinnings.

    Communism is conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just the Party Secretary) have any say in how the economy works. Republicans are conservative. Fewer and fewer people (preferably just people controlling the Party figurehead) have any say in how the government works. The conservatives in the US are in the same position as the communists in the 30s, and for the same reason: Their revolutions failed spectacularly but they refuse to admit what went wrong.

    A common mistake is to confuse Socialism, the economic system, with Communism, the political system. Communists are “socialist” in the same way that Republicans are “compassionate conservatives”. That is, they give lip service to ideals they have no intention of practicing

    Enero 1st, 2010 at 20:05

    I dont know all the details about the “Cuban Five” but I keep hearing on NPR about how Israel trades prisoners for others by the Palestinians and recently how a British prisoner just happened to be released while the US releasead an arab Iman or some “important prisoner”. I still believe that step by step will show more about REAL INTENTIONS for ALL PARTIES. Given 50 years of the opposite behavior by the Cuban Government I think they will BALK at any REAL DIPLOMACY!

    Enero 1st, 2010 at 19:26

    Given their response so far, it is the Cuban Goverment that looks BAD and it is showing their TRUE COLORS! I personally think that significant steps by the USA with significant steps by the Cuban Goverment is the best way. I was under the impression that this is the way diplomacy works normally!

  7. I was reading this

    the Cuba they mentioned there still exist with the revolution
    I remember seen children with swollen bellies full of worms and without shoes and barely cloth in my time in Cuba. If they give me the opportunity I am sure I will be able to find it again all we have to do is look in the small little towns out of the reach of the Castro regime. Those are the forgotten!

    They also talk about workers having 25 cents to dress and eat and have shoes. Now let me see. now Doctors in Cuba have the equivalent to 20 dollars and they are sold shoes of worst quality than the worst shoe we could possibly buy here and at the same price about 20 to 30 dollars. So a doctor will need a month salary to buy shoes. What could we say then about the others?

    This article is really amazing

    they say El 85% carecía de servicio de agua corriente.

    that is 85 percent did not have running water.
    Today they have manage to have 100 percent not having running water!!!

    As you guys know due to miss management they do not have running water.

    of this

    ·El 60% de ellos vivía en bohíos de techo de guano y de piso de tierra, sin servicio ni letrina sanitaria, ni agua corriente.

    ·El 85% de esas covachas —rezagos increíbles de la vivienda aborigen precolombina— solamente tenían una o dos piezas en las que debía hacinarse toda la familia para dormir.

    We do not have any current data but I suspect the problem right now could be worst. Considering the hurracanes that destroy so many homes and the substandard living conditions they are living. I know in havana many do live in homes that are ruins.
    And like that in many many cities. They have not been able to maintain the home repairs for lack of materials and for the high cost of them. Or because the revolution had different priorities.

    “El 44% no asistió, no pudo asistir jamás, a una escuela.”

    this one is about 44 percent that could not go to school. Well now they are educated but the revolution prohibit books and does only publish news that is beneficial to those in power! Restricting freedom of expression and written word.

    As for this it is total nonsense

    “cuando cae la tarde, en el 88 % de esos bohíos hay que encender el quinqué… cuando se dispone de luz brillante. Y de refrigerador o nevera ¿qué decir? Solamente el 3% de los hogares rurales cubanos disponía de alguno de estos artefactos. La conservación de los alimentos, pues, apenas se conoce”.

    There is still many of this homes in Cuba that do not have electricity. How many? I do not know but I remember seen many back in my province.

    So the article continues about the food and that is exactly the Achilles heal of the regime. The food. No enough food for everyone!

    So in conclusion. The revolution did not deliver and the cost have been the loss of freedom for Cuban and the migration of about 2 million of Cubans! The dimensions and the horror of this disaster can not be fully measure.

  8. Humberto,

    Ok, now I am really confused. According to Granma, it is the 52nd year of the revolution. They have a big article explaining it — no kidding, the title of the article is “Why is it the 52nd Year of the Revolution?”

    And now you’re telling me there was no celebration? Who’s driving the boat here? Maybe January 1, 2010 hasn’t happened yet, I am starting to doubt that it did. Maybe we are really still back on December 19th, because if you add 9, then subtract 4 and multiply by 7…


    LATIN AMERICAN HERALD TRIBUNE: No Government Events as Cuba Celebrates 51 Years of Revolution

    HAVANA – “Cuba celebrated Friday the 51st anniversary of the revolution with austerity and without any government ceremonies planned, though the public’s traditional dancing in the main squares of the communist-ruled island to celebrate the occasion were maintained.”

    “Unlike last year, when official events were organized to celebrate a half-century of revolution, this time no activity was planned with members of the government, nor has there been any word of a message to the public from President Raul Castro, Fidel’s younger brother.”

    “But the television aired no official communique to the people referring to the anniversary of the revolution.”

  10. With regards to ideologies and the political spectrum as you know there is a full rainbow of political colors here on the US. From the extreme right to the extreme left.
    In Cuba the government claims everyone is with them but we can see it is not so.
    We know because there is about approximately 2 million Cubans outside of Cuba and I bet that the majority of them emigrated out of Cuba for political reasons.

    If all the Cubans are with them could someone explain why can they not allow other political parties to form with those “little groups” that oppose the regime?

    Maybe the “little group” I suspect is not so little.
    They should know how “little” is the group and that is why they do not want this to happen.

  11. Julio,

    I agree with you about the families of “The Cuban Five” to be allowed to visit their relatives! God knows how hard is for Cuban Families to visit the Political Prisoners in Cuba.

  12. I do know the Cuban government does treat very bad the families of political prisoners in Cuba by even placing them in prisons far away from the place their family lives.
    Still just because the Cuban regime is cruel towards Cuban does not gives us the right to also be cruel to their spies in prison here.

    They should be allow visits and any close family member should be allow to visit them.

  13. Julie,

    Not traded but released in Cuba. I know that these prisoners want to stay in Cuba and make their wishes known. I keep up on the news pretty well!

  14. Julio,

    I agree with you about the families of “The Cuban Five” to be allowed to visit their relatives! God knows how hard is for Cuban Families to visit the Political Prisoners in Cuba. Actually, I got a very left-leaning friend who has a show on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles that interviewed someone a couple of weeks ago from Tijuana because they were having an event protesting the denial of visitation rights to some of the wives of “The Cuban Five”. I believe in dialogue and friendship with all political ideologies!

  15. Humberto

    Trading spies for spies I do not see a problem
    But the 75 prisoner in Cuba are not American spies.
    So we have no reason to exchange them.
    The Cuban government will possibly be willing to do such a trade but some of the 75 have manifested they do not want to be trade for the Cuban 5 either so..

    Plus it will be bad since them if we get more of their spies then they will place other 75 in prison to exchange again. Do you see my logic?

  16. Julio,

    I dont know all the details about the “Cuban Five” but I keep hearing on NPR about how Israel trades prisoners for others by the Palestinians and recently how a British prisoner just happened to be released while the US releasead an arab Iman or some “important prisoner”. I still believe that step by step will show more about REAL INTENTIONS for ALL PARTIES. Given 50 years of the opposite behavior by the Cuban Goverment I think they will BALK at any REAL DIPLOMACY!

  17. I believe the claim they have about the Cuban five is that they were spying Cubans in Florida and not America. That logic is flaw because there is no such distinction that could be made. Any person that spies here in America independent of who he/she is spying is guilty of espionage. What makes it even worst is that some of our brothers here die as a result from their actions. So I still believe they should not be release.

    On the other hand I think their wifes should be allow to come and visit them. I read somewhere (maybe grandma) that two of their wifes where denied visa to visit them.
    For humanitarian reasons and because this is a violation of the 8th amendment of our constitution (Cruel and unusual punishment)

    They do have legal recourse in this country to pursue the matter about the wifes or families visas to come an visit them.

  18. Well in my opinion I think if we go back a little bit in history I believe the 75 that Cuba got in prison they got them after the Cuban 5. I believe if the above is true they did it as to used them for bargaining with the american government.

    I am not verse in international relations but I will say that will be a bad precedent because they are totally different reasons for this people to be in prison.

    If you tell me we exchange espies then I am OK. We give them their spies they give us our spies. But the 75 the got in prison in Cuba where not American spies.

    They were Cubans working for the freedom of Cuba. Even if we assuming that a foreign government was paying them. They were still working for freedom something I strongly believe people should have.

  19. Julio,

    Given their response so far, it is the Cuban Goverment that looks BAD and it is showing their TRUE COLORS! I personally think that significant steps by the USA with significant steps by the Cuban Goverment is the best way. I was under the impression that this is the way diplomacy works normally!

  20. With regards to the Cuban five I do not agree with releasing them.
    They were spying for a foreign government here therefore they got what they deserve.
    Espionage is in violation of American laws. Therefore Cuba have no right to do that.

  21. Humberto because what we are doing is wrong. We also know that what they are doing is wrong and by us fixing what is wrong we will have a higher moral ground to ask for them to change.

    It will be a very strong signal we will be sending not to the Cuban government but to the people of Cuba.

  22. Julio,

    I view the Cuba situation this way as it relates to the embargo, the USA makes a good gesture move and then the Cuban Goverment make a good gesture move. Why should the USA give all it “chips” when the Cuban Goverment has only responded with violence, repression and verbal attacks. I think the USA should release one of the “Cuban Five” for one of the 200 political prisoners and so forth. One for One! If they mean busines about THE EMBARGO this should not be a problem with this gradual approach or maybe they are showing THEIR TRUE INTENTIONS! Which is to keep THE BOOGY MAN ALIVE!

  23. As for my Marxism. I know it quite well even better than many of the so call communist in the island. Enough to know that they are not communist! :-)

    Now let me ask this. What does Marxism got to do with embargo?
    I think is a moral thing. Please explain that to me because I do not see the relation between Marxism and not having embargo against the Cuban people.

    I know the objective is embargo of the Cuban regime but that’s not the way it works.
    It actually works against the Cuban people.

  24. Statue of Liberty

    “There is syndrome imbedded in Cubans who “unfortunately” throughout the years received the Marxist indoctrination from grade school to College that it is the US to be blamed for the Embargo, but they don’t care to analyze the reason why it was imposed in the first place.”

    Can you please illuminate me if there is any other reason to impose an embargo other than the one I mentioned below? Please let me know.

    You seem to have been living here for a long time. I have about 20 years living in the US too but I still care a lot about Cuba. Because I care is that I want to make things right. We do know that in 50 years the embargo has not work. So the simple logic will tell you if it does not work then take it away and see what happen. Who is to say that maybe taking it away we can give them economic power to the Cuban people independent of the Cuban regime? There is a giant black market in Cuba that we can feed. That giant market and making Cubans independent economically of the regime is the key to freedom. Having freedom then the regime will be doom.

    “I don’t hide my way of thinking when expressing myself about the Embargo, therefore I could care less if after this post I get attacked one more time, to me is irrelevant.”

    I think I have shown that I am very cordial when I debate so no need to mention about attacks unless my words above and bellow are perceived as such.

  25. Ok this is in response from prior post to me from Yubano

    “Again I see you make the assertion that the Cuban people live in poverty because of the embargo. The Cuban people live in poverty because of the disastrous and ruinous policies of the Castro regime. ”

    Yes you are correct not all the fault for poverty in Cuba is due to the embargo. I do agree with you. I also know they have been able to trade with many countries. But usually they would have found better price for the product they would like to buy here in america.

    If I have to place more fault on the embargo or the Cuban regime “manage” economy. I will say the biggest problem for them have been their manage economy and killing any private initiative and relegating it to be Black Market.

    Still, The embargo has affected Cubans. They have manage to give them the perfect excuse to say when things do not work. We know better but … how about the millions in Cuba that believe them?

    I mentioned before its is immoral to have an embargo to force people of another nation to vote in a way we like. That is my main point against the embargo. People should be able to vote without any pressure from a foreign government to do so.

    The same also with american that will like to travel to Cuba.
    Their rights are violated, they should be able to visit Cuba if they wish to do so.
    I am very sorry but on those two points I do agree they have good reasons to protest.

    Maybe if we change they will follow and also change. If they don’t we still be doing the right thing and will have a higher moral ground to stand on.

  26. Hank,

    I am not from Havana and only visited two times while there as child in 1960’s so maybe those here from there can comment better about you observations. What I would say about seeing no black cubans in the video is that it was done in 1930’s where racism in Cuba and the USA was in high gear and since it is in english it was probably done for tourism purposes. Cuba as I recall had was ahead of the USA on race intermarriages, integration of black cubans politically and socially. Ofcourse not by the elite but the middle class.

  27. CNN: MORE INFORMATION ABOUT U.S. church group briefly held in Cuba
    “The church made three trips in November without incident, but things went sour almost immediately after the 14 volunteers exited the plane in December, one of the participants, Jacquie Jones, told CNN.

    Most of the group passed through customs without a problem, but five members of the group were stopped and had their passports and licenses checked, Jones said.”

    “The Cuban authorities told the five that they were not allowed inside Cuba because they were there for religious reasons and forced them to wait for almost an hour and a half before putting them on a commercial flight back to Mexico, from where they had traveled.

    Jones pointed out the U.S. gives travel permits to Cuba for religious work, but the island, at least in this case, rejected the group for the same reason.”

    “The nine others who had already passed through customs faced additional questioning and were detained inside the airport overnight, Carol Slegers, who was part of that group, told CNN.

    Later, it was learned that Cuban authorities considered imprisoning them, she said. Instead, they were left to find a place to sleep on the floor of the airport.

    The group ended up sleeping underneath a staircase, using fabric they brought for the clothes-making project as sheets, Slegers said. The next morning, they were put on a plane to Mexico.

    The Cuban officials “were rude and cold and indifferent,” Slegers said. “It was very psychologically disarming.””

  28. Humberto,

    Thank you very much for posting the video of Havana in the 1930s. I had not seen it before and I really enjoyed it. A lot of things struck me about it:

    The opening scene looks like a ferry, maybe arriving from Miami or somewhere else;

    The people are so amazingly well dressed and possessed with self respect, purpose and honor, you can tell by the way they walk and their attire (I have never understood how people could dress in sport coats in a place as warm as Cuba or any other tropical environment). In every video I see now from Cuba, the people look very different;

    The streets were vibrant with shops, markets, awnings and people interacting in a civil way – just walking around and conducting the business of everyday life;

    I was very surprised that I only saw caucasians in the video – I have watched it three times now and I think I spotted one black woman on the pedestrian avenue, with a young girl in tow;

    Everything looks so new, and freshly painted, kept up and maintained, as opposed to decrepit and falling apart.

    These are my simple observations. In any case, thank you again for posting the video.

  29. ***
    Happy New Year! And a better year for the Cuban People and brave bloggers. Keep up the good work.
    Feliz Ano Nuevo! Y un ano mejor por la gente Cubano y los “bloggers” valientes. Siga en el trabajo bueno.

  30. I put that article and the video to show the irony and the connection to this blog.

  31. There was violence recently here in Karachi..& due to that,train’s & other forms of transportation were put to a halt,& people left stranded at stations,road’s etc.,not being able to greet the New Year with their family.Atleast you have hitchhiking there, here its somewhat rare,though it does happen.

  32. You know queues grow, particular products become difficult to find, travel becomes dificult and prices go up in many countries at festiv etimes like Xmas and the New Year.

  33. NY TIMES ARTICLE: In Cuba’s Time Capsule, an Automotive Legacy
    “Castro’s cars, it turns out, are stored in a warehouse at Communist Party Central Headquarters, Mr. Mesejo told us; the museum’s collection comprises about 40 cars, trucks and motorcycles that represent the last 100 years of Cuba’s automotive history.

    Just past the admission desk — admission is one CUC, or Cuban Convertible Peso, or about $1.08 — visitors are greeted by a 1926 Rolls-Royce Phantom I with coachwork by Letourneur & Marchand of France. We were told this car was found abandoned after the 1959 revolution and kept safe by the government until the museum opened in 1980.”

    “Most of the cars in the collection are American, including a Chevy touring car and Model T and Model A Fords. Against the back wall are two 1959 Oldsmobiles, one originally owned by Camilo Cienfuegos, a revolutionary leader considered a hero by his countrymen. The few European cars include a 1953 MG TD, a 1920s Fiat (discovered hidden behind a secret wall in a mansion) and a bright red Alfa Romeo roadster.”

    YOU TUBE: Havana, Cuba 1930s
    A tour of the city of Havana, Cuba in the 1930s filmed by Andre de la Varre.

  34. Pingback: Tweets that mention Generation Y » The color of the highway --

Comments are closed.