Some areas of Old Havana are not hooked up to a water supply, and the residents and businesses get their water delivered by a tank truck. My roommate and I were sitting at a sidewalk table having a snack when a tanker truck pulled up and a couple of guys started dragging a hose around. They connected the hose and pumped water into the tanks of a hotel across the street.
Havana Club Rum is a well-known brand name whose sales have been increasing due to a tie-up with one of the giant French drinks companies.
The stuff is actually produced here, originally as a by-product of sugar can production.
Due to the economic embargo, you cannot get hold of the stuff in the Us although Bacardi has still tried to use the name by setting up a company in Lichenstein (a well known rum producing country) using some of the descendents of the original family company.
Bacardi also seem to give the impression in their advertising that their rum is Cuban - when it clealy isn't.
The website below gives a full analysis of the trade-mark wars in this area.
The stuff you get in in Cuba itself is fine, and a bottle always helps tp lubricate the wheels of social interaction - and is always welcome in Cuba without hesiation - cheers !
Even if you DO speak Spanish, there are a lot of Cuban words/concepts/phrases that you may wish to learn sooner than later:
Jinetero: this is a negative term used for Cuban men that want to hustle foreigners - they will try to sell you black market cigars, hook you up with places to go and see, women etc. He wants to make money. There are also the Cuban men who hook up with foreign women with the objective of getting material items, drinks and dinners paid for, even a marriage to get them out of the country. Cuban men are very forward in general so if you are not interested, say so and walk away; if you are, enjoy yourself but keep in mind that unfortunately, some may have an ulterior motive (so beware!)
Jinetera: this is female version of a hustler but it usually means a prostitute
YUMA: that is YOU, any non-Cuban. It originally was a term for Americans but now applies to pretty much all foreigners. The term "gringo" is not used in Cuban, it is yuma.
Fula/Divisa: cuban convertible money
Nacionales: Cuban pesos
Assere: a "buddy" or friend; usually a term used between males and often in the phrase, "Que bola assere", a common Cuban greeting meaning 'what's up buddy?'
Bonita/Muneca/Buena/Guapa/Princesa/Reina/Linda/Rica/Sabrosura/Lindura/Mami etc.: as a woman in Cuba, you are likely to be referred to by these terms, either by Cuban friends you make or men on the street who are cat-calling "piropos" - they all denote a nice-looking woman, so even if it bothers you, it is meant to be nice!
Mango/Manga: this is a strictly Cuban term to refer to a very good-looking man/woman. Un mangon is a SUPER good looking one!
Typical Cuban swear words (so at least you know when someone is swearing at you...): Cono! (this is less severe term, usually an exclamation, to express amazement, surprise etc. - it technically refers to a man's special part...); Pinga!/Pingada/a la pinga (this is the most severe swear word in Cuba, similar to joder in Spain or chingar in Mexico; it also refers to a man's special part and you are likely to hear this word a LOT, both in a sexual context as well as in a swearing context); "papaya" in Havana refers to a woman's special part so to refer to the fruit, use the term "fruta bomba"
Common food items and dishes: ropa vieja (it means 'old clothes' but it is shredded beef in a tomato type sauce); yucca con mojo (yucca is a tuber-like root vegetable that can be fried or in this case boiled and served with a garlic sauce); congri (rice and black beans cooked together); tostones (savoury banana mash fried into bite-sized pieces); platanos fritos (sweet fried banana); col (cabbage), remolacha (beets)
Dimunitives: Cubans tend to use diminutives a lot and if the diminutive would create an ending of "tito/tita", they will use "tico/tica" instead, like "chiquitico" (small), "galletica" (little biscuit)
This is the most picturesque boulevard in Havana, lined with many historic buildings. Down the centre is a tree lined pedestrian area complete with statues of lions, elegant street lamps & marble benches.
This is the place to see locals taking a stroll or stood gossiping in the shade, it was particulary busy round sunset. During the day you'll see school children playing ball games in the shade after school has finished.
This is the newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, it is printed daily in Spanish & weekly in a number of international languages. Throughout Havana eldery gentlemen would walk the streets trying to sell copies. The seller I bought my copy from was so delighted at the sale that I got a hug and a handshake & was called a 'comrade of the revolution'.
Havana, like any other Cuban city has open air markets where you can purchase fresh vegetables, fruits, and other foods. Just be wary of the meat due to the lack of refrigeration and general unhealthy conditions. Also be aware of the fact you will need Cuban pesos known as CUP and not the CUC you use in the tourist venues.
Hemingway would have his usual MOJITO pronounced Moh-hee-toh at his favourite haunt, La Bodeguita Del Medio. I did try one at our resort and I must admit that it's an acquired taste and I didn't much care for it. But there were many that did, so I thought it would be fun to post the original authentic recipe which I got from the website TASTEOF CUBA.com
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Juice from 1 lime ( 2 ounces )
4 mint leaves
Havana Club white rum ( 2 ounces )
2 ounces club soda
1 sprig of mint for garnish
Place the mint leaves into a long mojito glass (often called a "collins" glass) and squeeze the juice from a cut lime over it. You'll want about two ounces of lime juice. Add the powdered sugar, then gently smash the mint into the lime juice and sugar. Add ice (preferably crushed) then add the rum and stir, and top off with the club soda (you can also stir the club soda in as per your taste). Garnish with a mint sprig.
You can also add a lime slice to the rim of the glass.
I don’t know if the mamey (a fruit I’ve seen only in Cuba) is a seasonal fruit or not… but whenever you visit the island, try to find this ‘licuado de mamey’ in the places where Cubans eat.
You may find it around the Capitolio, in places where you can buy a quick sandwich or snack…
And then, when you ask how much it is… you may get just a number, like four… well, that in ‘peso cubano’ (MN = moneda nacional)… not in CUC. Don’t get yourself ripped off!
Guarapo is some sort of juice made off the sugar cane... sweet, served with ice... and seriously delicious!
Walking somewhere around the Coliseo, you may find a little window with not less than 20 Cubans ordering or waiting their cup of guarapo. If you see it, don't hesitate... get one!
Whenever you have a big reunion with family and friends, for a special occasion such as New Year for example, the family will try to get a barbequed pork. Pork is the kind of meat Cuban usually eat, nearly every single dish has pork on it.
Something you will never understand unless you play it too! It is unbelievable how addicting it is!
Whenever people have the chance, they play it.
Parties, any kind of social reunion, in the streets, old people, young people, everywhere, everybody...
Well, as everybody knows, Cuba is not a rich country. Its population suffer a lot of needs and restrictions. But there is an important difference with other Third World countries: children in Cuba are extremely well looked after, all of them go to school and this fact it is not usual at other countries. Cuba take care of their children and you can see them doing lots of activities. The ones at the picture were training Tai Chi with their teachers, near El Capitolio.
Todo el mundo sabe que Cuba no es un pais rico. Su poblacion sufre muchas necesidades y restricciones. Pero hay un diferencia muy importante con respecto a otros paises del Tercer Mundo: los niños de Cuba estan extremadamente bien cuidados, todos estan escolarizados y esto es un hecho poco frecuente en otros paises. Cuba cuida de sus ninhos y puedes verles haciendo muchas actividades. Los de la foto estaban haciendo Tai Chi con sus entrenadores, cerca de El Capitolio
My tip for having a good meal in havana is: Search for the 'particulars'.
In a restaurant you can easily wait up to a hour to get your 'untasty' meal served (i really don't like the restaurant food in Cuba),
but when you make an appointment to eat at someboy's house, you get the best meals, for the cheapest prices.
We had the most delicious lobster, and we only had to pay 20 US dollars for the whole group (6 persons).
Walking around Havana streets you can be easily amused because of a number of reasons. One of them is the almost surrealistic posters you find in the street. Apart from the political ones, which are peculiar enough, some of them hide a kind of contradiction, like the one in the photo: who has ever heard of urban agriculture?
Paseando por las calles de la Habana, puedes entretenerte por una buena cantidad de razones. Una de ellas es los carteles casi surrealistas que te encuentras por la calle. Aparte de los politicos, que ya son bastante peculiares, algunos de ellos esconden una contradiccion como la de la foto: quien ha oido hablar alguna vez de agricultura urbana?
It's not a very big secret that Cubans in general don't have much to live on but they can be very resourceful when it comes to taking their small share of the tourist industry to make a living. There are lots of very good musicians around, or people dressed up in tropical costumes offering you to get a picture taken with them, improvised tour guides, people braiding hair, offering horse carriage rides, selling (fake) cigars, CDs, fried plantains, handing out toilet paper near restrooms... It might get a little tiresome after a while but these people are all nice and friendly and have chosen an agreeable way of making a living so why not thank them for making your day more colorful by helping them out with some spare change. I'm not saying that you should be buying cigars at every street corner: in that case a simple "no gracias" will do the trick. But when it comes to street or restaurant musicians or people working in restrooms, I think it's only fair to hand out a few coins, which is why I highly recommend carrying petty change at all time so you don't get stuck having to turn someone away because you only have 10 CUC bills in your wallet.