Living in Cuba

Submitted 8 years 6 months ago by CultureWhiz.

Cuba is metaphorically as well as physically an island. The closed economy and difficult access make this culture a confusing mix of hard and soft -- the central government strictly controls the behavior of a laid-back people who party and go to the beach. The contrasts make for plentiful opportunity to explore the city and countryside and feel the beat of the people. Much happens through social bonds, whether among family or friends or officials.

Cuban etiquette generally resembles Latin American etiquette. Toasts include "Salud!" (health) for drinks, and "Buen provecho!" (good fortune) for food. Tipping is optional, and if done should be given directly to a waiter rather than left on the table. Unconventional styles, such as loud hairdos, may draw attention in Cuba.

Major Holidays:
Major holidays in Cuba mark significant events in the revolution: January 1 and July 26. May Day, a communist holiday worldwide, is an official holiday, as is October 10 which marks the historic revolt against Spain that began in 1868. Catholics honor Three Kings Day on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

The political system is termed "Democratic Centralism". Every citizen has the right to participate in discussions of political, social, and economic issues, but that participation is somewhat constrained by the hierarchical structure of society and government. Authority ultimately rests with the central executive branch; both the issues discussed and the decisions made are determined by the President of the Republic.

The 1976 constitution established a system of representative legislative bodies called the Organs of People's Power (OPP). Municipal, provincial, and national levels of the Peoples' Power debate issues and send the results to the next level of the hierarchy. The National Assembly of the OPP elects from its ranks a Council of State that can act on its behalf when it is not in session. From the Council of State is chosen the Council of Ministers, who have direct administrative responsibility for the executive departments. This is but one example of the conflation of the executive and legislative functions of the revolutionary government so that a system of checks and balances does not exist.

Cuba has two different currencies, the peso and the convertible peso. The main peso is worth less than the convertible peso, and is used for basic supplies such as food staples. The convertible peso, by contrast, can be exchanged more freely, and is used for luxury goods. The two currencies are now being merged. Currently one convertible peso is pegged to one US dollar, while a plain peso is worth four cents. Each peso is equivalent to one hundred centavos.

In Cuba, ballet is to the fine arts what baseball is to sports: the top. The Cuban National Ballet Company, founded by its leader and star performer, Alicia Alonso, has performed all over the world. She is considered one of the best ballet dancers of all time.
Several Cuban writers and poets, including José Marti and Alejo Carpentier (1904–80), have left their mark upon Latin American literature. A notable poet, Herberto Padilla, whose collection of poems, "Out of the Game", received praise worldwide but was banned in Cuba, was even arrested.

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