Cuba is one of the most fascinating and frustrating places I have visited. The local population and the foreigners are in two worlds and the government does everything it can to keep them separate. Cuban citizens aren’t allowed in marinas if they are not working there. No Cuban who isn’t on official business, in other words checking a boat in or out of a marina, is allowed on a boat or even allowed to stay in the same hotel room as a foreigner.
Because of this, several of the expats living at the marina had married Cuban women or rented flats outside of the marina so that they could be with their girlfriends. I heard stories of foreigners who had rented a hotel room for a night with a Cuban girl, but the hotel made the foreigner rent two rooms. The whole thing seemed strange to me from the start and the more I learned the more unsettling.
The average monthly wage for a Cuban is between $18-25 CUC a month, or about $20-28 dollars. Doctors or garbage men it doesn’t matter. The wage is the wage. Cubans aren’t paid in CUC, or onvertible pesos, though. They are paid in pesos nacional, or national currency. To reinforce the separation of Cuban and foreigner there is a dual currency system. 1 CUC is 24 pesos nacional. In more touristic areas foreigners are charged about 30 times as much as locals.
The dual currency system actually did not start because the government wanted to separate the locals from foreigners though. A little over a decade ago, US dollars were flooding the black market to the point that it was in danger of destabilizing the economy. To fight this, the Cuban government came out with CUC and told Cubans that they would buy their US dollars with this new currency at a 1-1 rate. And thus the dual currency system came into being.
Now CUC are strong, worth about $1.20 USD (and there is also a tax for converting USD to CUC. If you
go to Cuba I suggest bringing Euro or Canadian dollars) but the dual currency system is annoying to say the least. You can buy some things with pesos nacional but not with CUC and vica versa. Almost any shop in more touristic areas will only accept CUC from foreigners, however the local markets only deal in pesos nacional.
I love going to farmers markets, or any open-air market with fresh produce and local color. They always seem to have better produce and fresher products. Not to mention the fact that I am er… frugal and would rather have adventures to stretch my money than fall back on the easy option.Street stands in Havana sold produce as did the Saturday market in Jaimanitas, the town within walking distance of Marina Hemmingway. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the markets, but they generally have tomatoes, small onions, and bananas. Sometimes eggplant or beets and I did see lettuce once. Curiously they don’t have potatoes though.
Backstay Basil Tomato omelet
1⁄2 c milk
1⁄4 c fresh basil
1 T dried basil
1 tomato, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1⁄2 small onion
2 t olive oil
Whisk eggs and milk together
Sauté onion and garlic in 1 T olive oil small skillet with dried basil about 3 minutes
Heat 1 T olive oil in large skillet
Pour in egg mixture and cook 2-3 minutes until solidifying but slightly liquid on top
Spoon onion mixture over more liquid half (for some reason 1 side always cooks more quickly on Umineko)
Lay tomato slices over onions
Place leaves of fresh basil over tomatoes leaving several sprigs for garnish
Fold other half of cooked eggs over ingredients
Cook another 2 minutes
Divide and garnish with basil sprigs