One thing that can be said about Cuban society is that they have an incredible ability to adapt. Cuba was highly dependent on the Soviet Union. This all came to an abrupt halt with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Cubans found themselves without a trading partner and subsequently without an economy. To counteract that fact, Fidel Castro opened up tourism and allowed citizens of Cuba to own property and start their own businesses. People that owned cars started taxi services and those that owned their homes started a bed and breakfast . Those that knew how to cook opened up a restaurant called a “paladar“. Having your own business was hard because the government highly regulated the industry and they imposed very high taxes. Obtaining equipment and supplies was difficult due to the embargo. All food had to be sourced locally and prepared with equipment that had been cobbled together. Power outages and fuel shortages also made running a business a challenge. That said, these paladares have the best food on the island. It is important to note that Cubans have two currencies. A “national peso” (MN) and a “convertible peso” (CUC). Cubans are paid in national pesos ($1CUC=~$25MN) and tourists convert their dollars and Euros to CUC’s ($1CUC = $1US). Cubans earn about $500US per year. But, if you are in tourism you can earn $3,000US per month, mostly in tips.
The image of the menu below was taken from a paladar during the last day of our tour. It appears to be hand typed on a typewriter and it looked quite weathered. The prices are in Cuban Convertible Pesos. Not an impressive photograph but I thought the story was worth telling.
This image was taken with my SONY NEX-6 using my E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS set on 16 mm. The camera was set on Aperture Priority mode with the aperture set at f/7.1, shutter speed at 1/160 at ISO 100.
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