A few pictures from a normal agricultural market in Havana. One picture shows what are either seeds or spices in bags, I am unsure which. There are a couple of pictures of a chap shredding coconuts for the pulp.
Agriculture remains a problem in Cuba. A couple of years back hundreds of thousands of acres of idle land were made available to people to farm on 10 year renewable leases. Around 150,000 people applied for the leases and started growing and farming the land. Much of the land was infested with the Marabu weed and needed to be cleared first. For a number of reasons a dramatic increase in production has not eventuated. Part of the problem involves getting the produce to market through dysfunctional distribution networks. Produce may be available however it can rot in the field or warehouse for want of transport to markets. It seems however that moves are afoot to allow worker co-operatives to take over the management of things such as transport, distribution and marketing of agricultural produce. This should help achieve better productivity and an increase in produce reaching market, and in good condition.
The story behind these apartments is a bit interesting. They were constructed in the 1970s and, I think, 1980s by brigades of workers. Groups of workers were given building materials by the state and permitted to build their own homes. With many of the apartments, I was told, the first couple of floors were a little rough however by the time the brigade had reached the top floor they had become experts. The brigades then became a resource for helping other groups of workers construct buildings. Apparently the apartments to have are the ones on the top floor, not the bottom.
Anyone travelling around Havana will note the general decay amongst buildings, roads and the like. There are certainly signs of some renewal amongst the decay. It’s been an interest of mine to find out which is occurring faster, the renewal or the decay. I haven’t yet found the answer. Last trip I posted some photos of both the renewal and the decay. Below are some further pictures. There are also some figures quoted below from works done by a chap named Joaquín P. Pujol regarding the current state of infrastructure in both Havana and Cuba. The information quoted can be found in the referenced articles.
“The Cuban government has acknowledged that a lack of housing is one of the country’s biggest challenges. According to official estimates, the housing shortage reached some 500,000 homes by the middle of the past decade. But given the deterioration of the existing stock, independent estimates put the current housing shortages at closer to 1.6 million units.”
“Over 100,000 people in the capital area do not have access to running water and depend on cistern trucks to provide them with some supply of water.”
“In the city of Havana alone it has been estimated that there are currently over 8,000 residences in peril of collapse.”
“The number of passengers transported by public buses daily, which in the 1980s had reached 4 million, dropped to less that half a million in the 1990s and only recently had climbed back to one million.”
“According to a November 2007 EFECOM report, nearly 3,000 kilometers of major roadways in Cuba are in poor or substandard condition. Over 75% of paved roadways in the Havana area alone are in poor conditions and in need of substantial and complex repairs. The cost of performing the needed repairs and improvements on the major highway system in Cuba has been estimated at US$1 billion.”
Some joker has come up with his list of 6 horrible European cars. Amongst the names are Lada and Moskvitch. I had several trips in both types of car whilst in Cuba. Luxury motoring? No. Sufficient to get you from one point to the next? Yes.
The title of the article is a little misleading. The writer limits himself to Soviet era Eastern Europe cars. That minimises the spread of ‘horrible cars’. For example, had he encompassed all of Europe he would no doubt have placed the Morris Marina at or near the top of the list. The Marina looks like it utilised excess parts from a Moskvitch. The car suffered over steer, under steer, a rubbish gear box and steering that was looser than the Governments oversight of the GCSB.
Performance wise the Marina came in the same varieties as Cuban washing powder. Two varities, the story goes, available and not available. Likewise, the Marina was either going or not going. My experience was that, most often, not going. At least Cuban washing powder does appear from time to time in shops. It was a rare day my Marina would work. Maybe Cuba scraped its fleet of Marinas and replaced them with Ladas and Moskvitches. Makes sense.
Blow are the Moskvitch and the Moskvitch ‘knock off’ (Morris Marina). Main difference? The Moskvitch is still running.
I found this scene one afternoon in a neighbourhood in Vedado. These chaps are building a Huerto Intensivo, a community garden. They were in the process of digging out the area that a new raised garden will occupy. The dirt was sifted through a makeshift sieve, the larger items extracted and the dirt piled to go back into the garden. In one of the pictures you can see a trench dug around the edge of the ground they are sifting, larger rocks and detritus was placed in the trench. It seems to be the footings for the garden. Other photos show the existing raised garden beds in various condition and states of planting. This particular garden was on a street corner, a mini allotment I guess. Around 20 – 25 families grow food in the garden at any one time.
Here are 2 photos of the typical type of cigar you will be offered, and can purchase, at a tobacco farm in Vinales. Most, if not all, tobacco is compulsory purchased by the Cuban state. I was told by a farmer that they are legally allowed to keep 10% back for own use and sale. I am not sure whether that is true or not. However, you will be offered cigars for sale. I have set the cigars alongside a small Partagas and Romeo y Julieta so you can do a comparison. The quality isn’t great however the cigar only cost me about $1.50. It is smokeable all right and has a mild flavour which I found pleasant. I gave one of these to a Cuban for his view, he enjoyed smoking it. I’ll enjoy smoking these.