[Written by: Reinaldo – Age – 50’s; Birthplace – Countryside near Bayamo, Cuba; Residence – Havana, Cuba; Occupation – Lives with Wife; Operator of a Casa Particular]
It was a pleasure meeting with you a few months ago when you visited our lovely island of Cuba. You did not tell me very much about the United States, but I guess I know pretty much. Or I think I do. Most of the people who stay in my casa particular are from Europe. Most are here on vacation. Europeans do not have the restrictions like your country imposes travel to Cuba. The visas that Cuba issues to European visitors also less restrictive than those issued to Americans. But the real reason the government makes it easier to stay in hotels is that the hotels are government owned, and the government wants the money.
I’ll explain for your readers. Cubans are not permitted to own real estate. The government owns most real estate. There are some exceptions for non-Cubans to own certain properties in certain areas. All hotels are government owned, or owned by the government and a foreign entity of some kind. Restaurants are the same way. The government offers licenses to people to rent out rooms, and to serve meals, and charges a tax. A home that is licensed to offer rooms, with or without food is a casa particular (private home). A food establishment that does not offer rooms in a private home is generally known as a paladar.
This morning I had six guests, all males, ranging in age from 30 to 60, in my casa particular. This Casa Particular is a floor of a newer (built in the 70s) condominium building overlooking the sea in Havana. Some had visitors during the night. I will not say more about the visitors, except that your friend, Yaneiris, was here.
This morning, like every morning, I cooked a casual breakfast. I went to the bakery and bought some bread. I made coffee, espresso style, with a lot of sugar. Coffee is rationed, but I can obtain more because of the license. Sugar is plentiful.
A visitor from Spain left a Spanish newspaper from last week behind. It is rare that I can obtain international news. We only have government newspapers or revolutionary newspapers. We have very limited ability to speak with the outside world. The Internet is not easy to come by, and the sites and even e-mail systems are restricted. So we have trouble learning what is happening in the world, and even what is happening here.
I read the Spanish newspaper cover to cover. I learned about what was going on in the United States, Spain, Portugal, Greece, particularly the financial crisis, and all kinds of international intrigue. I read a negative article about Chavez from Venezuela. Of course, I also read negative articles about Obama.
Cuba wasn't mentioned in the entire newspaper because, as is common, nothing is going on here, at least as far as the rest of the world seas it.
Of course, a few weeks ago we probably made the news when Chavez came here to have a cyst removed from his hip, which later turned out to be cancer. The fact that he was silent for an extended period caused a lot of speculation. I’m sure that made the news. Prior to that, we had the celebration of the anniversary of the Bay of Pigs attack and the tremendous defeat of the American fools. Raul Castro made a speech. I visited the Plaza de la Revolución to listen. Prior to that there were some dissidents in trouble, but I do not care to give my opinions about that. We also had some rationing issues and some loss of job issues. I understand those issues did make international news to some extent, but I never had the opportunity to read what was said.