Home Improvement, Cuban Style

July 5, 1998 11:00pm

Yesterday morning when I returned to the boat from the Casa Particular, two of the local officials were on board talking with Chris. We passed the morning and part of the afternoon talking with them, drinking beer and smoking cigars. Enrique spoke English fairly well and is well educated and traveled. He possesses a Cuban passport, a rarity and has been to many places including Los Angeles where his sister lives, Russia, Angola to name a few. Alfredo only spoke Spanish and is quite knowledgeable about how the local political and commercial system works.

  Our conversation ranged from US and Cuban history to the local economy. Enrique made it quite clear he wished us to establish a business here where the Cuban government would be a partner. He sees himself as our official Cuban advisor.

After they left, Chris and I split a can of hash and crackers, our only food since early yesterday.

We were to be at the casa of our friend, Yasmell to pour the concrete Chris had purchased but the delay of the visit by Enrique and Alfredo put us three hours out.

I decided to try the phones again and call our friend Penny in Grand Cayman to relay a message to my family. After three attempts and disconnections I finally got through but could only speak to her for a moment or two before the phone shut down. It was Sunday and there is no hope of trying again.

Chris had gone ahead and I agreed to meet him at the bar near El Centro at three o'clock. He sent Beybe, a little girl of nine years to get me. We had met her our first day in town as she followed us around to try to show us this or that and ask us for pesos. Coincidentally, she is a neighbor of our friends.

Chris...   Alexis...   and the rest of the work crew.

When I arrived the new second floor of the home was well underway.

  Nara, Yasmell's wife was obviously pleased with the new space for her family and climbed the makeshift ladder many times to look over the addition to her home.

After a brief rest, the work was completed and an evening of celebration ensued.

Beybe, her sister Belkis (16) and Yasmell's very lovely daughter Adys (8) asked if I would take them to the park at El Centro to take their pictures. When I agreed they disappeared to wash and put on their best clothes.






Back at the casa, Beybe insisted I come to her house to meet her family. The batteries from my camera made an old pocket cassette functional again. The joy of something as simple as a few used batteries makes me contemplate just how fortunate we are.

As the sun set, I went with the girls to buy some rum for the evening. One dollar and your own bottle buys 750 ml of hooch poured from an old plastic container.

I played dominos into the night with the family and friends of Yasmell who had come to help with the work. First we played in the traditional Cuban manner and then I showed them the way I had learned and used to play.  

Photo Courtesy of C. Pritchard

1998 John Petrak

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