Yes, please, further questions after the Experience
At the end of 2018, I am running three Airnbn experiences in Havana.
This has been a pleasant entertainment to show my city and explain
how habaneros live, as well as a source of extra income to support
the development of my family.
Sometimes I must stop my interest to know more about common issues
of life in other latitudes, because I understand that the priority must be
the visitor. I love to talk a lot so I must avoid saturation and take care of making good photo memories.
When we visit the markets, groceries, wifi parks and other unique places of
Havana, there are many questions about eccentricities that only remain here. How do we manage for keep running those tiresome cars of the 50s, how do Cubans survive for a month with food provided by the ration card, all schools are free and must wear school uniforms? ...
Just talking on Cuban diet, at an organic farm in Centro Habana, a friend asked me why, being an island, surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, in Cuba there is almost no fish in our diet. My explanation did not convince him at all (neither do I understand it), and that is why he suggested that someone should promote a support to the Cuban Fish program.
When the experience ends, photos edited and sent, questions remain on the air frecuently. I gladly answer them by e-mail.
I remember the restless Ryuki, from Japan, who asked me a lot about the construction of affordable housing in the 80s by brigades of workers who built their own apartments in a block buildings of socialist style. A week after our Experience in an extensive email I explained all the details and sent him additional photos of that topic, which he thanked me a lot.
So, do not finish with a Bye, Thank You, Nice Trip.... Welcome curiosity, exchange and mutual knowledge, beyond two and a half hour meeting. That's a big lesson of my photowalks with Airbnb in Havana.
Happy Holidays to all!
Thanks @Jose for an interesting post. It’s nice to hear from someone who runs experiences.... I like how you look for mutual knowledge and learning to accommodate what the guest needs. Curiosity is important. To have an interest is very different from being nosy.... and to continue to share the information to a guest, after the experience, or a homestay, is always enhancing, and a sign of going that extra mile!
It is funny to hear about the your guests questions @Jose !
If you do not mind, now it is me who would like to ask a question? If fish is not present in the diet ... what do the cubans eat in terms of meat? Chicken or cattle meat?
Merry Christimas and Happy New Year!
@Jose Nice post. I've never been to Cuba, but would love to go- it's pretty easy and not too expensive to get there from Mexico, where I live, so I may make it one day. Plus the idea of visiting a country where I understand the native language is very appealing, altho I'm sure I'd find the differing pronunciation and idioms difficult for awhile.
You know what's always impressed me about Cuba? You have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. There are varying statistics, but one I just read said 100% literacy rate, while the US was far below many other countries at 86%.
There's some great stories about life in Cuba @Jose that you may like to browse through and share tucked in one of my favourite websites about world history
Here's a couple of them.
Then there's the ole Cuban Cigars.
—«— [By R. Edmunds.] Although your paper lately gave a succinct and valuable account of this island, I will, with your land permission, •* supplement the story " with a few additional facts, which may prove of interest to your readers. This " Pearl of the Antilles," the last jewel of the Spanish crown in America, is nearly as large as Englaud, and is specially favored by position and climate for commercial and industrial prosperity. Although on the verge of the tropic, the climate is so equable that only a difference of eight degrees exists bttween its coldest and warmest summer months, and the meau annual heat is only three degrees greater than that of Paris. It is not surprising, then, that the sugar cane, banana, orange, cocoa and coffee trees, pineapples and wheat are, or might be grown with equal success, and the soil so fertile that fields the least neglected are soon overrun with a wild luxuriance of tropical vegetation. The proportion of cultivafcable laud, too, 13 large ; the Copper Mountains rise in the eastern end to about the height of Egmont, bat from this elevation the land slopes towards the west in geutle undulations for 700 miles, though now mostly covered with wild orange trees, and a profusion of shrubs, ■gorgeous with blossoms, decorate the deserted plains. The capital, as its name implies (La Habana) the haven, has a splendid harbor, and is strongly fortified. A narrow passage between forts leads into a circular bay surrounded by wharves capable of berthing a thousand ships. The visitor on landing is struck by the. stately grandeur of the cathedrals and other public buildings ; nor . less so by the lofty grace and beauty of the king of palms, the palma real (ereodoxa regia); the stem (up to 90 feet) swells slightly in the centre; the lower half whitish, the upper glossy green, like " one column surmounting another"; from the summit the feathery frouds spout vertically upwards, curving over at the points, and gleaming like a fountain of emerals. Nor would he be less astonished in former times at seeing the swampy places " corduroyed " with massive logs of mahogany—similar logs now selling to the London pianoforte makers —when marked with a
leculiar wavy grain known as " ocean
wood," from its resembling sea-waves tossing in the sun, one has sold for £IOOO, for veneers. Islands of wonderful beauty cluster round the coasts —the group discovered by Columbus on his fourth voyage, and named by him " Jardines de la Eeyna," the Queen's Gardens, after Isabella of Spain, and where miles of wiuding passages of sea, mirror the verdure and the blossoms of a hundred tropic isles, can scarcely be excelled by any scenery on earth. Should the Spanish and American forces meet in an attack on Havannah, the hurly-burly of battle will be over the grave of the great Columbus ; that he had little rest in his life time a line or two from a letter of his to
King Ferdinand will show: "Persecuted, forgotten as I am, I never think of the lands I have discovered without my eyes being filled with tears. Twenty years I served you ; now every hair of my head is white, and all pity me save your Highness." But little rest as he had in life, he was equally disturbed in death ; for buried first at Valladolid, his remains were next carried to Seville ; then removed to San Domingo, and when that island achieved its independence, transported to the cathedral of Havannah ; and should Cuba become independent there is little doubt the poor relics (what is left of them) must make another journey back to Spain, or Manilla, perhaps. Who would wish to be a great discoverer, when not oven your bones can rest in peace ?
The Mineral Richness of Cuba.
Cuba is just at present prominently before the world in anything but an industrial light, and it may seem in some respects rather strange to consider the island pacifically as a gold and silver producer at a time when it naturally occurs to mind as the theatre of a war, which, while it is the most modern in point of time, is also, in point of character, the most unhappily conceived and the most impotently carried out in recent history. None the less it can hardly serve other than a useful purpose to give something more of a utilitarian trend to the rabt attention which is now directed toward)!) the island that in magnitude and positiojn may be said to dominate the West ijndian Archipelago. To do so may tend, iji u measure, to lay the smell or gunpowder, and to lull the cannon throb wlc'.ch here, in Europe, strike the imaginative senses as they are borne from over tiie Atlantic by the medium of the subuiaune cable. Like many other places iaimilarly remote from Europe, Cuba, far as its industries are concerned sutler considerably from the pernioiiius force of popular but mistaken assutiaiipiis. Just as Brazil is exotericaliy known chiefly as the " place where the nuts come from," so Cuba is indissolubly connected in the general mind with the fragrant and delicate smoke clouds of the Habana cigar. Even to the better informed minds the interest centering in Cuba is almost exclusively an agricultural interest, and takes no count of the vast mineral resources which by consentamong the many mining engineers ; who have visited the spot are known to ! lie within the bosom of the turbulent island. Amerioans, as might have been expected, have a juster appreciation of this fact than others more distantly situated from this Golconda of the New World. Divided thence by several thousand miles of ocean, and open to a multitude of pressing claims upon their enterprise and resources, the English capitalist may easily be forgiven for paying but a scanty regard to the industrial potentialities of a sphere to which he is so little drawn by any tie of blood or sympathy. The Americans, on the other hand, are joined to Cuba by a manifold interest —political, financial, and geographical—and it is naturally mainly through American channels that we are indebted for the bulk of our information as to the geological structure and mineral richness of the island.
A paper by a Cuban gentleman, Signor Raimundo Cabrera, recently read in translation before the Franklin Institute, dealt very fully and ably with the "incalculable riches which lie in the open lap of this teeming but unfortunate land, ungarnered and almost unexplored, after more than 400 years of European colonisation." Avoiding the more geological and technical aspect of the question, the paper gives a more or less plain statement of the diflerent metals and minerals thus left for future working, the multitudinous character of which may be gathered from the fact that the catalogue includes copper, hematite, magnetite, manganese, asbestos, sulphur, talc, quicksilver, coal, antimony, felspar, onyx, serpentine, gypsum, baryta, asphalt, and petroleum. These are the minerals which were represented in the Cuban section of the Columbian Exhibition of the year 1893. That despite the early knowledge of these varied and rich deposits, so little has been done towards their development, is no doubt due in a large measure to the peculiarities of Spanish administration. The heavy t<xation of industry is not the least among the evils which have been indirectly responsible for the present evil condition of affairs in regard to Cuba. Mining has especially suffered from this deterrent to enterprise. Something, however, must properly be counted for race, and it has yet to be shown whether under a detached and self-contained form of republican administration all that is expected from a different fiscal policy will be realised. As it is, the record is by no moans exclusively one of an unsatisfactory character, n6 is attested by the extent to which copper, the most widely exploited metal of the country, has been worked.
Down fo the well-known revolution of 1808 the province of Santiago was the seat of a large copper-mining industry, the town of Cobre, as its etymological signification shows, taking its name from the adjacent mines, which were vigorously worked by the " Consolidada " Corporation. With a history going back to the middle of the sixteenth century, these mines were worked with varying foriunes, times of failure under the supine control of the Government alternating with periods of intermittent prosperity under the more vigorous initiative of private enterprise, while at the present time the mining operations have " dwindled and declined " 10 a mere hand-to mouth policy of treating the tailings left by the former rich output, and the occasional primitive working of a vein here and there at points where appearances are more than usually promising. In other provinces—such as Malejas and Nicaragua—some workings have been undertaken in a variously superficial manner, and the main feature about the deposits disclosed is the promising indication that under other and more practical guidance—with energy, capital, and skill—they might be made to pay very handsomely. Another form of mineral wealth which is likely unde* more favorable conditions to form 'he basis of a successful industry is the mineral oil, which in several modifications and differing states occurs in many parts of the island. Some borings have been sunk, and the very rude beginnings of primitive working have made their appearance, but beyond a convincing demonstration of the potentialities of future development there is at present enough to show what for has been done. So far as they have been sunk, the wells have in no prominent instance ceased to yield, but in nearly all caßes they have met with the common fate of abandonment. Among the more productive provinces in Cuba that of Santiago appears to have been particularly favoured. Together with the copper veins, to which reference has already been made, there are extensive deposits of iron ore awaitin" the handling of the miner and the smelter. Hematite and magnetite exiat ill large masses, but of the numerous concessions which have been granted in the richest districts, only three have been worked, and those through the agency of an American company. Cuba in its present state may be likened to a cauldron in which th- various racial and political ingredients are seething in a suiphurous Malebolge. Whether out of this medley of unharnessed forces a less transitory condition of polity may emerge it would be difficult to say. Perhaps the hopes which are centred by some people in a hypothetical Cuban Republic may turn out, if put to the test, exaggerated, ami the last state of the island become worse thmi the first
Has Cuba changed much over the last 120 or years from this desription of it?
— CUBA'S CAPITAL CITY. THE PLACE AND THE PEOPLE. Havana, or Habana, or, more fully, Ban Cristobal de la Habana, lies on norlh-west side of the island of Cuba, Florida Channel, on a level tongue of land stretching eastwards from" the bay, and' leaving open a. navigable entrance 4200 >feet long by 1000 feet in width. On a low hill to the left stand tbe forts of El Morro and Gabs-os, ereoted in 1589, in the reign of Phillip II.; and on the point of the tongue to the right is tbe battery of Da Ptmta. With its gaily-painted houses add numerous strangolyfaßh_>_ei^uroh'tbVers, the city presents an agreeable aspect, though somewhat detracted from by the enormous prison and place of execution, situated < right orithe (port* To the right of ' the ' magnificent bay, extending all the way from the castle - of La Fuerza, the oldest, fort in the place, to the "Maria", barracks, or Caballeria, are the • wharves, with their long lines of trading vessels lying right under shore. On the opposite side of the Bay stands La Casa Blanca, another fort, with white walls, and further on the village of Regla, with its immense sugar warehouses, imposing buildings, whose iron-plated roofs glitter a long way off in the sun. The Caballeria fronts the bay, and is. provided with an iron roof, supported by iron pillars running along its whole length. The commeroial world meets ef cry morning and transacts most of its business in. this place. Havana, with its 200,000 inhabitants, in many respects resembles A LARGE EUROPEAN CITY. . It . consists of the old town in tbe east, and the new town in the west, the excessively narrow and badly- j paved streets of the former being J . densely thronged, especially in the ; morning. Here the Opispo.and other leading thoroughfares are lined with very elegant 'shops, while the West End is pervaded by a profound aristocratic stillness. The new town is altogether more of a suburb, where are situated' the most .'frequented promenades, the finest private houses, warehouses, cafes, the theatre, and tbe Casino Espanol. Here also is the ■ Paseo De Isabel, the finest thoroughfare in Havana, like a boulevard, crossing the oity from end to end, flanked by grand residences, with a double row of spacious carriage-ways, and further embellished with magnificent fountains and statues. Beyond are the Parque de Isabel, some very sumptuous cafes, the Tacon theatre, and the railway, terminus. . The houses are very solidly built, with one, and very rarely two stories, and enormous windows, whioh instead of casements, are provided .with bright-painted iron gratings. The number of hackney ooacfies and; private equipages is very remarkable, the former being estimated at 6000, all doingwell. The Senoritas generally drive about in their " volantes," open carriages with wheels of great size but light construction, and immense shafts.; The driver sits like a postilion, on horseback, dressed in a fiery-red, gold-bespangled livery, the trappings and silver-mounted harness glistening gaily in the sun. The numerous churches are somewhat tastefully decorated, and visited regularly by the women only, who thus manage to fill up a good deal of their time during the day. In the cathedral of Havana repose the remains of Columbus. The Tacon theatre, one of the largest in the world, accomodates 8000 spectators, and is. open daily, Sundays "included, during the season. Besideß the churches and theatres, the bull-fights are also specially patronised by the; ladies. Mr A Gallenga gives an interesting description of the SOCIAL LIFE OP HAVANA, although he was not so much struck with the city and its attractions as the' inhabitants of the place always expect a new-comer to be. . In. . spite, he says, of the raptures into f which travellers new to tropical 'scenery are apt to fall, the country about Havana, on a first glance, presents itself as singularly flat and bare, and the town itself, after a few hours' evidence, suggests the definition of a city of smells ? and noises. : \He admits^ that th&*hla,r6or is tne finest in the world, but the scenery appeared to him to be rather pleasing than grandly impressive. What immediately strikes a stranger in the social aspect of Hay ana 'is that, like the Rome of Eomulus, it is a city without women. Hardly any other than negresses are to be seen about. Ladies, with any pretension to youth and beauty, would sooner die than venture out unprotected, and so common is the sight that foreign ladies, unacquainted with the custom and sauntering from shop to shop, become the' objects of a curiosity not unfrequently degenerating into impertinence. The scarcity is a real one and not merely apparent. Out of a population of 205,000 souls, there die annually, if offcial statistics may be relied upon, 3782 white males to 1204 white females \ while the deaths of the black or colored people -are, for males, 10_6 ; for the females, 1099. The causes of this disproportion between the males and females are not far to seek. Besides the priests, soldiers, and sailors, and the public functionaries, whose sojourn in the island is generally of the shortest, are here thousands" of Spanish immigrants, all males, attracted to the spot . by high wages, who look upon themselves as > . BIRDS OF PASSAGE, , and hardly dream: of sending for women from home. Regard for women, however, is by no means en- 1 hanced by their scarcity, and there ensues an exclusively male society. Even with married people, the difficulty of housekeeping, and the discomforts of domestic life, are so great that the Havana husband prefers, .the attractions of cafe or club, and" in no town of France or Italy are there to be seen so many or such sumptuous and constantly crowded cafes and restaurants. The Havana merchant is as eager to make money „as he, is .to 'squander ..it, but the. .^J^sup#j«s 'little ; besides gross ma'tenal " enjoyment for his money. A- box at his third-rate opera at the Tacon Theatre, and a drive on the dreary Prado, are all the ajapuse- ' ments he can have in common'' with his wife and daughter. For the rest, . the women are left alone to mope at home, playing bo peep with the passers"by ;froin . their window-gratings, or
I pacing the flatrroofs of. their houses like so many " Sis»"r Aunes," waiting for those who a., never coming. But TUE REAL BANE OF SOCIAL LIFE in Havana lies in the de<jp-seated and . hardly-smothei-d animosity of race, one and the same racp, yet irreconcilably divided against itself. There is no hatred in tbe world to be compared to that of Cuban for Spain and j all that belongs to it. The Creole ! longs for tho day in whiu'i he shall bo rid of everything Spanish, and of every other alien intruder coming to suck the very life-blood from his veins. The native Spaniard, on the other hand, calls Cuba " this emphatically Spanish island," and affects to ignore the Creole. But, to a strauger's eye • the split is nowhere apparent. Thus there is a vast amount of plot and intrigue, fatal to all loyal, social, and even domestic intercourse ; a depth of simulation and dissimulation of spoken and acted lies, not to be fathomed by a stranger on a mere superficial survey. The underground war is going on in eyery street, and in almost eVery .ity. ' Among the native Cubans education- _£is y - more widely spread than ; ainbng'*the Peninsula immigrants: But- " THE SPANISH SETTLERS ' own tho greater part of the landed property and the movable wealth of the country. They have the lion's share of the trade of Havana in their hands, partly in consequence of the superior thrift and activity, but in great measure owing to the privileges and monopolies awarded to them by an unscrupulous administration- ; but the fortune accumulated by the peninsular father not infrequently goes to wreck and ruin in the hands of his improvident Creole progeny. Bates says that the Creole thinks, not un- ' reasonably, that with the abolition of slave labor a new balance of fortune ' will come to be established, in which all the chances will be in his own favor. In that intricate problem of the slave system lies the whole politi- j tical and moral question, and the I Cuban is as anxious for its 'speedy! solution as the Spaniard is doggedly ' bent on its indefinite adjournment. ! With such a hopeless divergence of views and tendencies it is easy to ! imagine the constraint, the mistrust, ' the ill-will everywhere pervading ' society in Havana. None but the , mere trader is at rest here. " For some of the Spanish, and even German, English, and other foreign shopkeepers, there has been no spot in' the world where money could be more easily made. All imported goods, owing to protection and differential tariffs, pay enormously, heavy duties ; hence the merchant is entitled to sell dear. Fraud and smuggling are carried ' on to an outrageous extent ; hence he is enabled to buy cheap."
@Jose Wow, experiences in La Habana. My favourite city, mi cuidad favorita. I haven't been there now for so long, that I am sure it will have changed in the meantime.
It is so good that you are doing experiences in La Habana, as there is a lot to explain, but also a lot to learn for us from other countries.
ALl the best