After driving four hours from Havana we arrived in the town of Placetas, Cuba. Placetas is where all my family lives and that’s where we decided to spend the majority of our trip.
As soon as you get into the town of Placetas you see all the different means of transportation that they use to get around. Anything and everything is used as long as it moves. The streets are filled with people on bikes, cars, tractors, and horse-drawn carriages. Most of the buildings have aged and are falling apart from the lack of repairs.
We spend two hours sorting thru all the clothes, medicines, household supplies that we bought from home and distributed to five households. Did I mention that I have twenty-one cousins that still live in Cuba. One by one they came over to greet us and to take their bags of goodies home.
The best feeling you get is when you see a piece of clothing that you brought worn immediately. Some of the things we take for granted are basic necessities for them. For instance, toilet paper. We made sure to bring with us a few rolls of Charmin toilet paper. Most of the bathrooms in the houses have a nail on the wall with pieces of newspaper attached. Toilet paper is very expensive so they do with what they can. One of my cousins neighbor came by one day and had to use the restroom. My cousin told them the toilet paper was for the guest.
The streets of Placetas are filled with street vendors trying to earn a living by selling fruit, meat, and whatever they can.
We spend five days in the town of Placetas. Riding around in bicycles and using the horse-drawn carriages to take us from one relatives house to another. We experience the apagones (lights out) in Cuba. The government turns the lights off for hours at a time in different sectors of the city to save money. The people have no warning on when the lights are going off. Flashlights are kept around the housein case this happens. Kids have to do their homework with flashlights, people have to eat dinner in the dark with lanterns. We of course had the flashlight app on our iPhones that came in very handy during this time.
This grocery store didn’t have much to offer with nearly bare shelves. The vast majority of Cuban families rely, for their food intake, on the Libreta de Abastecimiento (literally, “Supplies booklet”). The system establishes the rations each person is allowed to buy through the system, and the frequency of supplies. Most of these products are distributed at the local bodega (convenience store specialized in distributing these rations), and in the case of meat, poultry or fish, at the local carnicería (meat store).
We were amazed by some of the things we saw. For instance, this stove which was used by my cousin to cook. It has a hand pump similar to one that is used to pump up a bicycle tire. The tank which is propane sits on the side of the burners.
Our trip to Cuba was a eye opening experience. It brought me back in time to where I was born and gave me the opportunity to meet some amazing people. People who don’t have much but would offer what little they have to you. If you’re thinking of going to Cuba to stay in the keys at an all inclusive resort. Enjoy. You’ll be missing out on the reality of how the people actually life and struggle to support themselves.
Read more about our Travels to Cuba – Havana