Ré-al Cuban life

“No, don’t go to Habana Vieja (old Havana). That is where all tourists go.” said Raúl with a slight disgust in his voice. “Go to central Havana and see ré-al Cuban life” stressing every of the the last three words with his voice and hands.
It was the start of an interesting alternative tour. Seeing the little private shops, walking through a marketplace, watching the places where he would get his monthly government issued portions based on food stamps.
“Cuban life is difficult” Raúl explains. As a tour guide for a tour company, he earns 45 CUC (roughly 45 euro) a month. It’s difficult to make ends meet. Friends and family are important. “We help each other. When I don’t have money, they help me. When they don’t have money, I help them.” However, he doesn’t look like a troubled man. “When my wife is happy, I’m happy. When my daughter is happy, I’m happy.”
Later in the evening I’m sitting in the street at his house. Cuban music coming out the loudspeakers at a neighbor’s house; children playing in the street; moms shouting at the children to behave; some men are playing domino; a couple of teenage boys walking by as cool as possible; others are trying to fix an old car. And I, I’m drinking rum with Raúl when he spreads his arms towards the whole spectacle: “Ré-al Cuban life”.
Our glasses meet; we’re happy.

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