I just came back from an amazing adventure in Cuba so I thought I’d pass on some of what I learned. I went there with my husband on an educational cultural tour with City College of San Francisco. Until the last few years, you could not buy a home in Cuba; however, you could swap homes with someone else. A three bedroom apartment in Havana today costs between $30,000 and $50,000. While by SF standards, this sounds like a great bargain, few Cubans can afford this since they earn an average of between 10 and 30 convertible pesos a month or an average of between $11 and $35. (Their healthcare, education, and some food is paid for by the government and their housing is subsidized.) Buying a 4 bedroom home in a nice neighborhood in Havana today would cost between $150,000 and $200,000, which would be an unreachable dream for most Cubans. I received this and the following information from our charming and very intelligent tour guide.
Here are some more fun facts told to me by our tour guide. There are 11 million people in Cuba, 2 million of them live in Havana. In 2030, 1/4 of the population will be over 65 years old. More than 50% of the government officials are women. Officially, there is less than 3% unemployment, but if you look around on the streets, you see many people who appear to be hanging out with nothing to do so this 3% number seems more like propaganda.
Until 2014, Cubans could not buy or sell cars. Those who had them might be given them by the government or by an overseas company for which they worked. How do they get around you might ask. They walk, bike, ride a horse drawn vehicle or take a bus. While buses run more often in Havana, outside of the city, there are few buses and most people hang out by the side of the road waiting for a state owned vehicle to pick them up, as is required if the driver has room in his car. If I hear anyone complaining about MUNI after this, I think I’ll suggest they visit Cuba.
Regardless of all of this, the culture there is phenomenal. The music, art and dance scenes are thriving. You are likely to dance more, see more art and listen to more music in the short time you might visit Cuba than you would anywhere else. While US citizens cannot travel there yet as “tourists” legally, they can enter the country legally like we did by taking various cultural, agricultural or other organized tours to get into the country and enjoy what it has to offer. It has been a lifetime dream of mine to visit Cuba and I am thrilled to have realized it. If you are thinking of going to Cuba, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.