Cuba might well be a socialist country, but during our February visit we met plenty of entrepreneurs who found ways of making a little extra money on the side. Whether they report their earning to the government or not, I’m not certain. But they found many tourists eager to part with their “convertible pesos” the monetary unit used when visitors convert their currency to Cuban currency.
Our first full day in the City of Havana, we were lead on a walking tour of the older section of the city. Gathered around two adorable Dachund hounds was a crowd of people cheering and clapping as the dogs made noises approximating the sound of speech. But that was not all. After the crowd dispersed, the owner of the dogs spied my husband Peter and posed him next to one of the dogs after learning we were Americans. First the dog kissed and greeted him. Then when he placed and American dollar bill in Peter’s hand and pointed a plastic gun the dog snarled and bared his teeth. Of course he received a generous tip for this entertainment, from Peter’s wallet as well as several other bystanders.
Just a few yards away , women in colorful 19th century costume carrying baskets of flowers and fruit, beckoned Peter to pose with them for a kiss. (It must have been that red shirt he was wearing) I took a few photos and when Peter pulled out one peso to give them they firmly told him that he must give them two pesos, because after all there were two of them. (Well it did make a nice picture)
A few blocks away were street artists painted a solid color to resemble statues, moving in various poses. They too wanted a donation for their performance. Women guards inside the various museums would embroider and crotchet while “on duty” and would offer their wares on the side, while others would set up stands near churches and other tourists attractions to sell handmade dolls and linens. In the city of Trinidad, an old man sat on a street corner with a rooster perched on his head. For a price, he too would pose for a picture.
These are just a few examples, but yes, regardless of the governmental structure, it just goes to show you that there is creative capitalism wherever you travel!