Sunday, February 28, 2016


POST 240 27FEB2016


POST 240 – 27FEB2016


( CONTINUED ) g.m phan hoang

Being a tourist is being a target for paying a high price for everything. In other countries you can somehow manage to escape from this luxury position, but hardly in Cuban even you can speak Spanish. Because everything is organized in a system and under the control of government: bank, resort, traveling agency, shopping center, transportation, and so on. Then currency policy is a great tool to discriminate people. The CUP, Cuban Peso, is for national people and their salaries are paid in this low peso. Then the CUC, Cuban Convertible Peso, is for foreign visitors when they exchange their money –dollar, euro, pound- to Cuban currency. So the tourists do forget the local currency and must use the convertible CUC. I heard one CUC is about 22 regular pesos, but did not check this information because it’s no use for us. Now the exchange rate is determined by the Cuban government, not by the market. So we cannot know the real value of the CUC. To exchange your money you have to go to the bank or at your tourist hotel. That day, at my hotel I changed 30 US dollars for 24 CUC, and at the bank for 300 US dollars I got 259.20 CUC, so clearly the rate at the bank is much better than at the hotel. However most people do not see that they are punished by exchanging the American dollar against the CUC: beside the arbitrary exchange rate they also charge 10% over the American dollar (no charge for Canadian and Euro), so for US $300 I would have lost 30$. That means, in the end, your visit of Cuba is not so cheap because you cannot escape from paying by the tourist CUC and at tourist rate. But we should not let this detail affects our great pleasure of visiting these beautiful islands and meeting with some very nice people. In this Post 240 I will not talk about anything sad I have seen, only nice moments.

In La Havana, at a books stand, I saw some pictures of a guy I knew fifty years ago, in 1960’s, when I was in France! He did not change much, same guy, same cigar and same beret. No, in fact, I did not really know that guy, I did never talk to him or meet him, and I had nothing to do with him. But I did see many of his pictures in France at that time. Now seeing his pictures again brings me back to the past, an agitated period of cold war, where almost every week there were passionate political discussions on the French campuses, from Lille, Paris, Caen, Nantes, Bordeaux, Lyon, to Marseille, and beyond. Sometimes there has been physical fighting among students of opposite ideals. Some young men dreaming of a revolutionary society were burning to have an idol, a symbol, a man to admire. Therefore they found that young guy to venerate, Che Guevara. Today, on the above campuses Che Guevara is almost forgotten but in Cuba, Che Guevara is still well admired as a national hero. People can see his pictures everywhere. The town of Santa Clara hosts an important museum dedicated to Che Guevara. What did he do to be so famous? I let you to explore through the web to know more about him. (Ernesto "Che" Guevara, June, 1928 – October, 1967. The term "Che", in local slang, is for "pal.", and this became his nick-name).

La Havana is the best place for me enjoying to listen a good Cuban band playing the song Guantanamera, a famous song which was born in Cuba around 1929. I like this song very much. Long time ago when I heard it for the first time through the Radio in France, sung by Nana Mouskouri, I immediately liked it. I was driving a car on a long road somewhere between Paris and Limoges. The voice of Nana Mouskouri was magical, and the French lyrics very nostalgic and touching. I liked Guantanamera without knowing the meaning of this title. Then after, I forgot this song. Then from time to time it reappeared in different places in my geographical and sentimental world to compete with the more famous Besame Mucho, which was born in Mexico. Listening to a song at its birth place, in its own environment, could produce deeper feeling to the traveler. This is the case when I am here in Cuba, right now, when the music rises to celebrate … Guantanamera, Guajira Guantaramera (a woman from Guantánamo).  At meal time almost in each restaurant a band, large or small, young or old, animates life with a series of favored songs they play very well. I discovered the Cuban beer Bucanero which was included in the menu, at the old restaurant El Baturror where I saw an American flag hang among others. Outside, in the streets, tourists outnumbered regular people; some ladies wearing very colorful clothes, flowers and cigar at hand, as you can see on my various pictures attached to this Post 240. Their job is to pose for those who would like to have their pictures; of course it is advisable to ask them for the price before taking action.  
In another part of the city, I was surprised by the luxury and the beauty of the Havana Cemetery. I could not believe that I was in Cuba! Please see attached pictures.
(to be continued in the next Post 241)
g.m   (February 2016)