Cuban Cigars Are Still A BIG Deal
Cuban cigars are still made the old fashioned way in Cuba, and sold by factory workers out the back of buildings for much less than their face value.
On the road with Dr Anne Small as she takes a road trip out of Havana
Again, the trip to Vanales didn’t happen so Pedro came to the rescue, again. He drove us to Soroa, about 100 miles out of Havana to a waterfall/cascade and also an orchid farm.
The waterfall was small, the orchid farm interesting (even for non-gardening me) with orchids and plants from all over the world, built by a lawyer whose wife died in child birth as a memorial to her in 1945.
- All the land that is NOT being cultivated, the soil is a rich red/brown colour and where there are crops, they look healthy. But, the Government doesn’t give the people enough seeds to grow the crops that the land would sustain. Hence, Cuba imports some foods. The staples of their diet is rice and beans.
- July 26 marks a memorable battle by Fidel Castro in Santiago (Cuba). It is a holiday. In the countryside there were many flags of Cuba and July 26 on houses and buildings, and painted on walls. Revolutionary farmers. But in the city I have seen no such flags – have city people lost their revolutionary feeling?!
- The roads are good even in the country – signage could be improved.
Tumbling down a landscaped hillside garden next door to Hotel & Villas Soroa is a labor of love built by Spanish lawyer Tomás Felipe Camacho in the late 1940s in memory of his wife and daughter. Camacho traveled round the world to amass his collection of 700 orchid species (the largest in Cuba), including many endemic plants. Though he died in the 1960s, the Orquideario, connected to the University of Pinar del Río, lives on with guided tours in Spanish or English.
The next day – doing deals for the best Cuban Cigars
Today we did a drug deal!! … in tobacco, Cuban cigars. A friendly, very helpful Cuban and his wife (who has Lupus) told us that when the people who work in the tobacco factories retire at 65 years, they are given a small supply of different cigars every month that they can sell (for half the price) from their own homes. So they led us to a small doorway up a dark, small staircase with cracked marble stairs into a small room with a table already set up with boxes of different brands of cigars. He showed us how to tell if a cigar is of good quality (eg, rub it between your hands and no tobacco should fall out, once a cigar is lit it should not burn out – it should stay lit). We would never have found such a place by ourselves. I was looking for the Police when we came out into the street though.
Farewell to Cuba
Pedro, our lovely taxi driver/guide said to tell people about Cuba by saying that the Government has money to paint the walls along the pavement for the forthcoming 26 July festival/holiday commemoration but they don’t have enough money to paint the houses (the Government owns virtually all the houses and land) “then you will not get into trouble”.
I am sad about the decay of Cuba. There are many grand old buildings that show it was a beautiful grand city but now many of them are in decay. The Government is renovating a lot of these things – hopefully it will be a grand city again – but everything happens so slowly in Cuba.
Next, to Peru and the Amazon …
Dr Anne Small