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Reconnecting with my Cuban Family – Part II

Reconnecting with my Cuban Family – Part II


On Sunday, the streets of Placetas came alive. As dawn broke, locals farmers from all the nearby towns came to sell their produce in an open market. They sold a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats.  Most of the people start out early to avoid the scorching hot sun.

We grabbed our bags and set off walking to the farmers market. We walked from one end of the farmers market to the other comparing prices and scouting out the best deals. Once we filled our bags, we hailed a horse drawn carriage (i.e. taxi)  to give us a ride back to the house. It cost $0.25 for the five minute taxi ride.

Farmers Market in Placetas, Cuba
Bananas for sale at the Farmers Market trip

Selling Pork in the Farmers Market trip

Bags full and ready to go back home.

The next two days were planned out by our relatives. We would have lunch at one house and dinner at another.  This way everyone got to see us and we were able to bring them the bags of supplies that we brought from the US. I knew how hard it was for my relatives to put together a meal for us. It’s not like they can go to the grocery store and buy whatever they need.  In most cases they can’t find it at the local stores, and if they do, they can’t afford to buy it.  The majority of our meals consisted of yellow rice, black beans, pork, chicken, or fish with a salad of slice tomatoes.

As much as Cubans love beef, it’s illegal in Cuba to slaughter cattle and eat it.  Even if you raised it yourself and it’s rightfully yours.  If they catch you killing a cow or eating the meat you can face tough penalties such as up to 40 years imprisonment.   Sounds ridiculous, but true.  Cuba raises its beef exclusively for export or for tourism.  Cubans who have their own herds must sell all their beef to the government exclusively and at the government set price. trip

Simple things like toilet paper are hard to find, so I made sure to bring two 12 packs  of toilet paper with me.   I didn’t realize that my cousin’s wife had distributed the rolls in the getaway bags.  So on day three we were running out of toilet paper in her house.   I switched to one of their rolls and it was the hardest and worse feeling paper I had ever used.  It felt like I was using sand paper.   I started to panic and stopped at every store in the nearby towns in search of toilet paper.  Finally, in the fifth town we hit the jackpot and found a pallet of toilet paper they had just brought in.   I didn’t want to take a chance so I carried as much toilet paper to the counter as I could carry. The lady looked at me like I was crazy.   Most Cubans only make $20 Cuban pesos a month which is equivalent to $20 American Dollars.  Since toilet paper costs around $3 Cuban pesos most homes use newspaper instead.  I spent the equivalent of a local month’s salary on toilet paper, something they had not seen before. trip
Cuban Mini Market
Cuban Grocery Store trip
Shelves of products for sale trip
Some of my cousins. trip
Traditional Cuban Bedroom with Rags for Carpets

Being around my family in Cuba again and walking the streets of Placetas really makes you appreciate how well we live back home.  Being able to hop in my car and go to the grocery store whenever we need food, running to Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond for household items, or stopping at a gas station to get gas.  If we need home improvement items, we go to Home Depot, and shoes or clothes well let’s go to the Mall.  My family in Cuba lives their life the way it’s been since the Revolution, scraping by with rolling shortages of products and a perpetually living just at the poverty line.  But, despite the material hardship of their lives, it’s an upbeat generous environment.

More to come:   Remedios, Cuba, and Trinidad, Cuba’s Prettiest and Oldest Town.


About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Her travels allow her the opportunity to pursue her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.


  1. Adelina | PackMeTo
    April 7, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    I’m really enjoying these posts of yours and taking a look into the day to day life in Cuba. I can’t believe that beef can’t be eaten by Cubans. Is there a reason why that is? other than it being reserved for tourists?

    Thanks again for linking up to the #SundayTraveler! See you next week 🙂

    • Carmen
      April 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Cuba raises its beef exclusively for export or for tourism. Cubans who have their own herds must sell all their beef to the government exclusively and at the government set price. I know it’s sounds ridiculous.

    • Adelina | PackMeTo
      April 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Wow, that is just…terrible. Way to take advantage. Then is there any reason for Cubans to raise cattle then? I’m assuming the set price from the government probably isn’t very high though…

    • Carmen
      April 13, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      I’ll have to ask my cousin that question. I’m assuming they raise the cattle because they know that the government is going to pay them. Knowing that I wasn’t allowed to eat it, I don’t think I would go through the trouble.

  2. Vicky Alonso [MissArretrancos]
    April 8, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    It’s difficult to believe they don’t have something basic as a toilet paper. I can imagine your happy face when you finally found it.

    Have a great week!!

    • Carmen
      April 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Vicky, I couldn’t believe how happy I was to find the toilet paper in the last store. I was able to buy a few other things that my family needed as well. You have to buy things as soon as you find them, because it could be months before the stores bring them back again.

  3. Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy
    April 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    That’s crazy about both the beef and the toilet paper – 2 things I take for granted apparently. Loving these posts! Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler 🙂

    • Carmen
      April 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm

      Ashley, we take lots of things here for granted. Being back in Cuba makes you really appreciate how easy we have it here. My cousin just had a baby and they have to use cloth diapers because they don’t have pampers in the stores.

  4. SJ @ Chasing the Donkey
    April 11, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    They can’t eat the beef? That’s terrible, they should be allowed an allocation – that’s cruel if you ask me. Thanks so much for linking up to #SundayTraveler again this week.

    • Carmen
      April 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      SJ, I agree they should be allowed to eat the beef. The only time my cousins had beef was when I paid for them to go spend the weekend in the keys at an all inclusive resort. They ate so much beef that they got themselves sick.

  5. Pintsized Wanderlust
    May 18, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Love your stuff. We especially like reading about the real Cuba, not the Cuba you often hear about from resorts. We will definitely make it to Cuba one day. Keep up the great work.

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