The cheap beach vacation in Cuba

As Ernesto Hernandez Busto from Penúltimos Días remarked, “this is what Cuba has come down to…”

Via The Walrus:

On Tipping in Cuba

In which the writer discovers the uncomfortable socio-macroeconomics of the cheap beach vacation

[…] This is a story about what happens when the unarticulated, half-hidden nature of that colonial relationship is http://walrusmagazine.com/images/2012.04/s/tippingincuba01.jpgsuddenly exposed. It’s an economics lesson in the form of a parable, a traveller’s tale about the strange connection between master and servant in this de facto tourist colony.

So let’s begin, in fairy-tale fashion, in a tower atop a castle: the rooftop terrace of Hotel Casa Granda in Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second-largest city. The Casa Granda is an old colonial half ruin overlooking a wide square and an elegant cathedral. It’s an atmospheric, Graham Greene kind of place, five storeys tall and colonnaded and shedding white paint. I found myself there at sunset one January evening, sipping a mojito and pondering the real value of ten convertible Cuban pesos.

Because Cuba is among the few nations on earth with two official currencies, a never-never-land economy caught in its own distended bubble halfway between the collapsed Soviet bloc and the contemporary global capitalist order, visitors can find themselves wondering more than usual about exchange rates. There is the regular, nonconvertible peso, officially the Cuban peso or CUP, used to buy staple goods at state-run shops. And there is the convertible peso, the CUC — the hard currency, which is used for luxury goods and provides the default banknotes for the tourist economy. In government accounting, CUCs and CUPs are valued one to one, but informally the CUC is worth about the same as the Canadian dollar, while the CUP has a street value of a nickel at most. CUPs are worthless outside Cuba, except as souvenirs.

You can read the entire article HERE.