Cubans have a variety of expressions to describe the government’s secrecy, its repression, its inefficiency and the hardships of their lives. A family friend said Eastern Europe may have had an iron curtain, but Cuba had one made of smoke and mirrors.
“Aquí, todo es un misterio”.
Here, everything’s a mystery.
That appears to be a popular expression and one of my favorites.
No one knows, for example, why you can’t go inside the airport’s baggage claim area to greet passengers. Or why passengers are let out in groups of two or three.
My husband, two friends and I recently traveled to Cuba and in addition to spending time in Havana, we went on a couple of side trips.
I was reminded of the incident I describe below when I saw this fire extinguisher while pumping gas at a gas station in Dallas.
Almost 45 minutes into our trip from Havana to Cienfuegos, our driver was stopped by a police officer. As I watched the exchange from the back seat, it became clear he was giving Rodolfo a hard time over some nonsense. Cab drivers are subjected to heavy controls in Cuba, and though I didn’t know him well, I figured Rodolfo wouldn’t risk not having his permits in order.
Apparently, cab drivers must carry a fire extinguisher in the car. Except that, as Rodolfo later explained to us, you can’t find functioning fire extinguishers in Cuba and that’s why he didn’t have one.
The officer repeatedly told Rodolfo he needed to have an extinguisher. Rodolfo told the officer he wanted to comply with the law, but could he tell him where to buy one?
This circular exchange went on for about fifteen minutes.
It took everything I had to stay in the car and not get involved, given my proclivity to want to run my mouth when I have no respect for authority. I was ready to pay a bribe, but wasn’t sure this cop was the type to take it and didn’t want to get Rodolfo in trouble.
In the end, the officer let him go with a warning.