Scenes Outside the Farmers' Market

Recently I posted about what it's like to shop at a Cuban farmers' market. What's outside of a Cuban agro is just as interesting as what's inside of it, especially on days when the pickings at the market are slim. These pictures were taken outside of the 42nd and 19th agro in Miramar that I frequent. 


I've been in Cuba long enough that I now instantly recognize pictures and images of Venezuela's former leader, Hugo Chavez. He is Cuba's "best friend," because Cuba relied on Venezuelan oil and other products after the fall of the Soviet Union. 

Lines are a common sight in Cuba, and this is the cola for the money changer. Cuba has two currencies -- one called CUC (pronounced "kook") and another called moneda nacional. CUC is the currency you get when you trade in foreign currency and is valued 1 to 1 with the U.S. dollar, though the Cuban government penalize any trades made with U.S. dollars by about 10 percent. It's usually better to bring in Euros or Canadian dollars. Moneda nacional (or pesos) are what Cubans are normally paid in; 24 pesos are worth 1 CUC. Foreigners can use either, and more and more, stores accept both (though it can be cumbersome to carry thousands in moneda nacional because the highest denomination is worth only $4. I generally use moneda nacional at the farmer's markets, at the bodegas, and at inexpensive food stands called cafeteria; I buy everything else in CUC. 


Above are shots of a typical bodega, the equivalent of a Cuban general store. This is where Cubans get their monthly rations that include rice and beans and where I buy certain goods like guava paste and sugar, which costs 8 moneda nacional (or 25 cents) a pound -- or slightly less than international price of sugar. This general store illustrates how few processed goods are available in Cuba; we generally rely on the agro (or farmer's market), a few items from the expensive not-so-super supermarkets, and a whole host of black market vendors who go door to door.  

Around the market, impoverished old men and women sell all kinds of random items they can get their hands on, such as packets of coffee (cut with green lentils), super glue, matches, and cheap cigars. What they do is illegal, hence no photos of the actual vendors.