The Fruit Market Havanalife and fun
Cubans are a creative people, out of necessity. The family ties are strong and many families have multiple incomes from parents, grand parents (pension) and grown up children. The Cuban is always on the lookout to earn an extra, so he will sell newspapers, flowers, or clothing on the streets or in the bars. He'll do minor repairs on bicycles and watches, refill gas lighters etc. Some girls earn money as Jineteras - a kind of escort service. The law forbids prostitution and there is a huge police control. Any Cuban girl walking hand in hand with a tourist can expect an identity check and she will be fined. After being caught several times jineteras are sent to a special school where they are obliged to a (re)education.
Boys earn an extra as a Jinetero (hustlers). They try to sell cigars, or they give addresses of casas particulares (private homes with tourist accommodation) or recommend restaurants for a fee. Selling cigars on the street is illegal and offenders are severely fined, so the jinetero may ask you to come to his house. All these cigars are imitations made from tobacco waste.
There is much solidarity in the Cuban community and they easily share with their neighbours. When you look at the shops, they are always crowded, and your first thought may be, where's all this money coming from? More than one million Cubans live in Miami and in other places like Canada and they send money to their families and friends in Cuba.
In addition to the salary, the Ration Book, and the small electricity and water bills, you have to take in account the free social benefits:
The education is free and an obligation for children up to the age of 16. More than 97% of the population can read and write. Higher education is accessible for everyone.
Is free too, and it covers preventive medical examinations 1 or 2 times a year with the family doctor (medico de la familia). Life expectancy is 76 years (info 2003) Infant mortality at birth is 6.5 per 1000. In general the health care system is one of the best in Latin America, but the last years have seen a little decline, mostly because of a shortage of medicines and medical tools.
At present time there's a serious shortage of decent housing, and because of this several generations live together under one roof. Official sources say there a shortage of construction materials due to the US embargo. There's probably a shortage of financial resources too.
Most Cubans own their homes, the monthly payments are very low and do not exceed 10% of their income. Because there’s not enough money for food and clothing, Cubans do very little maintenance to their houses.
A lot of people in Havana live in very old crumbling buildings, which are divided into small apartments. Although they are the proprietors of their houses they may not sell them, they only can swap them with other Cubans after approval by the authorities.
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