Tania Lorenzo

Tania Lorenzo

Photos: Tania Lorenzo

The Informal Markets of Cuban Tourism

When, at the beginning of the 1990s, the US dollar was de-penalized and the Cuban government found its salvation in tourism, few could have imagined that a whole series of informal markets would develop around the inflow of foreign visitors. The most notable impact of this phenomenon can be seen in Havana, Varadero and Matanzas, though all Cuban provinces – to a greater or lesser extent – have a tourist infrastructure that brings in revenues for the country and for private service providers. No few people have learned to “adapt” to this reality and make some money from visitors, offering transportation, a carwash, fruits, vegetables and other edibles, antiques, entertainment and many other services. Santa Clara, for instance, is not the tourist destination par excellence. Here, privately operated hostels and restaurants take the lead in a context where State options are few and far between, generating sources of parallel employment as a result of their own, inherent limitations. Emilia has been running a hostel in the downtown area for 3 years and depends on a minimum of four other people, those who buy the food and supplies for her business and satisfy the “whims” of the guests. From what she...

Photo by Yailin Alfaro

Same-Sex Marriage in Cuba: An Absent Right

It’s 4:20 in the afternoon in Sagua la Grande and, like every Saturday, Adrian is waiting for the bus headed for Santa Clara. He tells me that Yunier will board the bus at the stop called “Sietecito.” They will look for each other in the crowd, kiss each other on the face and share the small seat. An hour later, when the aging Giron-brand bus arrives at its destination, Adrian and Yunier will be different people. They will laugh as they please and put away all caution. They will have sex in the shower of a hostel, eat together at a restaurant (where no one cares whether they hold hands or not). They will ask each other about study and work, about how the home repairs are coming along and how the sick grandpa is doing. At around 10 at night, they’ll head over to the El Mejunje cultural center to forget about the world for a few hours. They will forget, Adrian tells me, that Yunier’s parents (his in-laws) don’t want to see him anywhere near their son and even hang up on him when he calls the house. He can’t even be with his partner in his own...

Photo: Tania Lorenzo

Remedios turns 500

San Juan de los Remedios, simply referred to as “Remedios” by people in Cuba, is turning 500 years old this June. One of the first cities founded by the Spanish colonizers, Remedios is one of those places you can visit to get a better idea of what those colonies must have looked like in the Caribbean. Located in the central province of Villa Calra, it is renowned as the cradle of a traditional festivity called “Las Parrandas,” and, to a lesser extent, as a place that repeatedly had to deal with attacks by pirates and privateers. The town has also the only central plaza flanked by two churches, one across the other, as an eloquent metaphor of the many disputes and contradictions it has witnessed. Now that Remedios is half a millenium old, its only aspiration is to be valued as an indispensable city, being unique as it is, and to reach the prosperity its people have always dreamed of, maybe from the hand of tourism. Photo: Tania Lorenzo Photo: Tania Lorenzo Photo: Tania Lorenzo Photo: Tania Lorenzo Photo: Tania...

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