Cuba, June 2015
As of July 1, 2015 Havana and Washington are opening embassies on each others soil after a 56 year silence. I was surprised how at how easily we flew between Miami and Havana. The island country is only 90 miles from the US but has remained cut off from the US for over half a century.
I was fortunate to be part of a group of 12 United Servants Abroad missionaries to visit Cuba in June 2015. In many ways it was like going back to 1959. Tens of thousands of 1950 cars provide day to day transportation. There has been no maintenance to building exteriors and most interiors. In 1959 Attorneys were informed there would be no more practice of law. Doctors were informed there would no more private practice of medicine. Christian churches were closed and converted into warehouses and bibles were collected and burned.
Today the Army owns most everything and wages range from $15 – $45 per month. Very few people have cell phones, I only found one person with internet access and it operates at 1990’s speed, there is no mail service and photos are not allowed at the airport.
Part of the revolution was standardization of wages. Everyone in same field earns the same amount, There are 2 currencies: Workers are paid in the peso. The CUC (Cuban Uniform Currency) is used by people authorized to do business. To give an idea of the living standard a doctors wage is $45 per month. There is a huge black market. if you sell commodities like gas, groceries or meat the customer expects to be shorted 10% – 13%. The amount shorted is then sold on the black market.
The army has allowed a few churches to re open in the last several years. United Servants Abroad is starting to install water purification systems in these churches so neighbors can drop by to fill water bottles. They have delivered foot treadle sewing machines so people can stop by to repair and make clothing. They are teaching the men how to fish the rich waters that surround the island.
Ladies with push carts visit 85 houses every morning delivering government rationed: rice, beans, bread and milk. Most people have to boil their water to avoid contacting cholera. Purchasing something as simple as aspirin is impossible. The people seem amazingly happy. I asked several groups if they would be in favor of a free election and they all said the same thing. “No things are fine.” Its human nature to be afraid of change and afraid of being turned in for criticizing the army.