Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cuba-Salsa, Santería and Old Cars

On the second night we gathered in the family room of the Hostel where we met with a Cuban economist who studies at the University of Cuba. I think I really expected a presentation on the benefits of socialism/communism but I was surprised by how honest he was about the upsides and downsides of the Cuban society. We asked questions about Cuban industry and housing, and a fair amount of the questions came from the Cubans in our group. Later we learned how to Salsa, and after shaking off the initial feelings of embarrassment, we were happily dancing like our Cuban neighbor across the street. Speaking of our neighbors, we had a fun time today interacting with people on the street. It was interesting to see that there weren’t really any homeless people. The economist had said that anyone could get a job working for the Cuban government. Apparently, the jobs come with free food and basic necessities as well. Cubans can choose whether or not to work for the government. If you work for yourself, you can make more money, but if you work for the government, you have a steady source of income.

We woke up the next morning having miscalculated the Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion for the A/C again. It wasn’t quite as cold as the night before, but it was close. After eating breakfast we rode in four old taxies to an art alley. There we learned about an important part of Afro-Cuban culture: Santería, which was a forced blend of both Christianity and traditional West African religions. We discussed how each Christian saint represents an African deity and stands for a different part of daily life—sickness, war, love, water and a few other things. Santería is more of a gathering than a religion; many people of other religions (Jewish, Christian) look to Santería to solve their issues.

Zach and Thomas

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