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About Harriet

2001-Present

1964-1972

 

 

 

2001-Present > The Gift of Cuba

Havana | Pets | Transportation | Spanish Classes | Tourists and the People They Attract | Money | Economics, Wealth and Poverty | Food, Water and the Hotel | The Arts | Fidel, Che and Jose Marti | Health and Education | Looking Back

Money

cookie vendor
Cookie Vendor at School

After the legalization of the US dollar as a trade currency early in the 1990’s, a double currency standard emerged. As a tourist, I was supposed to only use US dollars or the convertible pesos that were worth the same amount. The coins were geared to our dollar, so it was not difficult to keep track. The non-convertible Cuban pesos were very worn and dirty paper slips of paper.

Prices were on a dual scale. The museum admission or the ballet would cost 5 pesos  (4 cents US) for a Cuban and would cost me 5 US dollars. The snack shop at school could not deal in the two standards, so I was able to buy my hearty morning Cuban coffee (espresso with lots of sugar) for 5 cents.

At mid-day we were on our own and I often found a pizza for lunch, simple, filling and quick since I was tired after my four hour Spanish class and not in the mood for a drawn out full meal at a restaurant. A Cuban pizza has no Italian ancestry. It’s a circle of flat bread with cheese melted on it. The cheapest one was the best, from the soda fountain store three blocks from the hotel. Change from my dollar for the six-peso pizza brought me into the Cuban peso economy and then I had to find a place to use the non-convertible pesos. Not even the college snack shop would take them. But I could use them to buy more pizzas, so I sampled several sources.