Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Dandy in Cuba

Will we be lucky enough to run into an entrepreneurial button coverer (I could do that) or a licensed "dandy" in Cuba? Could Tom Wolfe just walk around in Havana without a license? Dandies earn a living from tourist donations - appreciation for the "look". Only in Cuba could a Dandy or a taxi driver make more money than a doctor.

You can also get a license to be a fortune teller, a parasol repairer, a "Havana woman", debris collector, mattress repairer or shoe repairer.

From wikipedia:

Since Reforms were introduced, over 400K Cubans have signed up to be entrepreneurs. As of 2012, the government publishes a list of 181 official jobs no longer under their control, such as taxi driver, construction worker, and shopkeeper. Licenses may also be purchased for becoming a mule driver, palm tree trimmer, well-digger, button coverer and "dandy" - gentleman in traditional elegant white suit and hat. Where imports are double exports, and doctors earn £15/month, families may supplement incomes with extra jobs, and the resultant increased taxes may shore up the economy. In the last decade, half the country's sugar mills have closed down, and tourists now ride factory steam locomotives. Some 3M visitors bring nearly £2M/ yearly (2012). 150K farmers have signed up to lease land from the government for bonus crops. Before, home-owners were only allowed to swap; now buying and selling has created a real-estate boom. A new Havana fast-food burger pizza restaurant, La Pachanga, started in the owner's home, serves 1K meals on a Saturday at £3, the weekly government wage. 

Here's the agenda for our cultural tour for the first few days: 

DAY 1, Thursday - Arrive in Miami
Depart your home city today for Miami, Florida, gateway for our travel to Cuba. We will stay overnight at an airport hotel before tomorrow's morning departure. We gather tonight for a welcome briefing
Overnight: Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport, Miami

DAY 2, Friday - Fly to Cienfuegos & Explore Cienfuegos
Today transfer to the airport for your flight to Cienguegos, Cuba. Upon arrival, we set out for a walking tour of the city. Cienfuegos, also known as La Perla del Sur (the Pearl of the South) was an important trading post for sugar, tobacco, and coffee. The historic center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its wonderful examples of neoclassical and eclectic architecture, as well as being an early example of urban planning in Latin America. A local guide shares the city's joys with us as we admire the Parque Marti and grand Teatro Terry, which once hosted Enrico Caruso. Have the opportunity to meet local shopkeepers on the pedestrian Bulevar and learn about Cuban currency and product supply limitations. We end our afternoon with an uplifting choir concert. Dinner is at the Casa Verde Restaurant overlooking the lovely Bay of Cienfuegos
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 3, Saturday - Botanical Gardens, Sugar Mill & Explore Trinidad
Your first visit of the day is to the Cienfuegos Province Botanical Gardens where more than 2,000 species of exotic plants thrive, including 400 types of orchids. We will sit down for a lecture about the garden's ties to Harvard University and how it was founded as a research center on the site of a sugar mill. Our next stop is a visit to a former sugar mill and estate in Manaca Iznaga. Learn the secrets behind sugar production and the importance of this industry to Cuba's economy in the past. Lunch will be at the Estate. Afterward, we drive to Trinidad. This 500-year-old city is so well preserved, many consider it an open-air museum. A local guide shows us the old cathedral and the Palacio Cantero, home to the historical museum. We will also stop at a rationing store to learn from shopkeepers how staples are distributed. For the final activity of the day, a local artisan demonstrates how to shape pottery from rich soil at a local ceramics studio. For dinner, we visit a local Paladar, whose owners sit with us and provide insight into private enterprise in Cuba
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4, Sunday - Visit Musicians and Community for Elderly in Santa Clara
Today we drive inland to Santa Clara, founded under a Tamarind tree that still stands today. The city later became the site of the final battle in the Cuban Revolution that toppled the Batista regime. We will hear more on that from our guide at the Che Guevara Memorial and Museum. Later, we stop at the Museo de Artes Decorativos to meet some musicians who set Cuban life to a local rhythm on traditional instruments. There will be time to browse the museum before continuing on to the Community Project for the Elderly. Our insightful visit reveals how art, music, and dance play a crucial role in the everyday lives of the inspiring residents. After lunch at the charming Hotel America, we explore Santa Clara by foot on a walking tour. Our local guide leads us through the colorful produce stalls at the mercado and along the city's wide, arcade-lined boulevard. Dinner is on your own in Cienfuegos
Overnight: Casa Verde or Perla del Mar, Cienfuegos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it's going to be a great trip. Can't wait to hear all about it and see the pictures.