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Published: January 14th 2009
Santiago de Cuba was a 3 1/2 hour drive from Guardalavaca, but well worth the long trip. The city is rich in history and colorful architecture.
What the city lacked was product advertising. Surprisingly, I found it refreshing not to be bombarded with product adverts or Coke/Pepsi/Frito-Lays advertisements in the smallest rural of tienda stores or gas stations. Instead, your eyes were drawn to the over abundance of socialist signage on billboards, and other visible public spaces.
While the larger signage containing striking black and white block print images of Fidel or Guevara was likely sponsored by the Communist party, smaller slogans and homemade posters were put up by citizens themselves on storefronts and house windows. Cubans were ready to celebrate the the 50th year anniversary of the Revolution. The list of my favourite socialist slogans include (feel free to provide the exact translations):
Revolution es Humanidad
Con Fidel et Raul Siempre!
Vive en el Pueblo!
Viva la Revoluccion Cubana
Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
At the Santa Ifigenia Cemetary, a large monument marks the final resting place of Compay Segundo, a great Cuban Musician from the Buena Vista Social Club, alongside the burials of
Cuban revolutionaries marked with a black and white flag noting the date of July 26th.
The Bacardis previously based themselves in Santiago de Cuba. Emilio Bacardi was even the mayor of the city back in 1899. After the Bacardi corporation left to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, Caney became the leading Cuban brand.
Visiting local markets are always a highlight for me where ever I travel to. Its a great way to interact with locals and see unique regional produce. The farmers market we visited as part of our tour was off the beaten tourist track. This market was certainly an eye opener on the organization of Cuban food distribution. Farmers are expected to sell first to the government at low prices. This produce ends up at these all-inclusive resorts, hospitals, day cares and boarding schools. The remaining portions of the farmer's harvest can be sold locally at an agricultural market and the profits are their own. While ration books allow Cubans to purchase most basic goods at extremely reasonable prices, the quantities allotted to each person/family are not enough to last the entire month. When those supplies run out, Cubans seek out these local markets to buy
the remaining supplies until the beginning of the month until the next month's rations kick in.
Garages and car shelters appear to be a luxury symbol
Sending qualified Cuban-trained doctors to parts of South America or Africa is Cuba's main export. This appears to exceed revenue gained from tourism.
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