Oh the days are slipping by and I have not found any womyn
farmers yet. The best lead I’ve had has been from the tour guide that lives in
Banes (about 30 kilometers south of here) who assures me that there is a group
of campasinas living together and growing food but he does not know directly of
them, only his neighbor, who is also a gardener, does.
But he has not contacted me again even though he told me he
would. I have to be patient, things move at a different pace here.
Plus I did not give him a tip so that probably ended things
before they began – even though I told him I would pay him to find womyn
The other lead I have is that tomorrow it is also farmers
day, as well as stand against homophobia day in Holguin, and all of Cuba – so
maybe I will be able to make connections there. IF I get to Holguin. I will
hate to have to take a cab, if I can’t rent a car…grrrrr
7:00am this morning after telling me my reserved car is no
longer available, I am told to return to the rental car place in an hour or two
but I do not want to pick up a car late morning or in the middle of the day –
then I’ll have to return in the middle of the day & it won’t give me enough
time to get anywhere, explore, get into conversations, and then get back.
Instead I go for a swim in the beautiful almost warm shallow
aquamarine waters but the beach is still pretty crowded and the sun intense, so
I leave the beach to walk around the workers’ Guardalavaca and then back to the
tourist marketplace where I continue to talk with vendors.
I learn how bad my Spanish pronunciation is when walking
down the sidewalk in the workers’ Guardalavaca, I try to point out a big
butterfly – mariposa – to a womon who does not work with tourists and who is
sitting quietly in the shade in front of her door watching her daughter play on
the ground in front of her. It takes repeating myself several times – long
after the butterfly leaves – with me
thinking I’m saying the right word and her focusing intently, until she finally
goes, ‘ah ha, mariposa’ and then I see I’ve been mispronouncing this simple
I continue to the little outdoor food vendors cooking in
small wooden structures with palm leaf roofs and see that their menu is similar
to the hotel food with the fried and grilled fish and chicken, no tamales –
sniffle – and few vegetables. Corn and tomatoes seem to dominate, as well as
fresh fruit juices. But there is a small ‘mercadito’ a few blocks away that is adobe
and brick, with a sheet metal roof, and painted deep purple with lovely fruits
and veggies drawn on the front. I see they have papaya, platanos, pineapple,
guava, cabbage, calabasa, onion, tomatoes and the like.
I also see in a kind of alley between and behind the tall
apartment buildings a small cart overflowing with fruit and a wizened old man
pushing it shouting something I cannot understand. I will not buy anything so I
do not bother him but I sure would like a picture!
I believe one CUC (the tourist money) is worth at least 10
pesos (the people’s money). And I find out that electricity is only 1 peso a
month, apparently for everyone, and the apartments are free although people are
now allowed to rent out rooms or even entire apartments. When I ask people
where they would live if I rented their apartment, they look at me as if I’m
asking about the elephant walking down the street. They tell me it’s not a
problem, they have friends, neighbors, family. Cubans take care of each other,
they assure me.
And yet I see a very small handful of very, very, very skinny,
very old Cubans with sad, hopeless eyes begging for money. I try to ask about
them but I simply get agreement that it is a problem in Cuba, everyone getting
enough food and clothes.
And getting enough work. It seems some people work 6 days a
week and others have work only for 6 months during the high tourist season.
I walk back across the wide park where no horses are grazing
now – they’re probably all out working, pulling carts with tourists or even
being ridden by tourists – and amble through the market, marveling once again
at the abundant artistic talent in Cuba.
I am told that everything sold in the market has to be
hand-made and also made by either the vendor or someone the vendor personally
knows. The vendors get 10% of their sales, pay the market at the end of the day
15% of their sales, and then turn the rest over to the artists.
I’m told that there used to be a government official
standing with each vendor all day to keep track of sales until they realized
this was not feasible and so now, vendors are on an honor system. When I ask if
vendors are tempted to lie about sales – I probably should have not used that
word – they again look like I’m talking about the elephant on the sidewalk.
They tell me the government takes care of all the people of
Cuba, and without the artist, they’d have no work so they wouldn’t lie. I can’t
imagine how tempting it must be to at least fudge a little. One CUC is worth so
much money to them. And who knows, but the seller and buyer, if a painting went
for $25 dollars or $24?
I return to the beach once more to swim before dinner and to
study my Spanish. I try to also study at least once a day although I really
miss my rosetta stone and my Spanish class.