Cuba, La Havana, Travel
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Phrases I heard from locals in Havana, Cuba

In politics there’s always going to be two sides of the story, that’s something we all know. During my visit to Havana, I made sure to write down every phrase I heard from locals regarding the revolution and the current government.

(DISCLAIMER: To all my Cuban-Americans friends, this is not a political post and has nothing to do with my personal opinion regarding the revolution and its history. This post just narrates what I heard from locals and translated it to the English language)

The quotes below might shock you… Here’s what I heard:

“Our government lets us cubans live in peace every day knowing that next month my daughter is going to have food in her stomach no matter how much I work or I don’t work that month” – Taxi driver in Varadero.

“Cuba has a 98% literacy! The highest in the world. Everyone has a free education, but when it’s time to go to college and pick up a career it’s when everything gets complicated. There are a limited spots for each career post graduation, there’s no guarantee that what you would be able to work in the field you studied for four years. Often you see taxi drivers that have a doctor degree, taxi drivers are always needed but all the doctors spots are already taken so you have no choice” – Tour guide, male about 24 years old.

“I couldn’t eat in a restaurant before… A lot of things are changing. Now i’m able to take my wife to a nice restaurants once a year to celebrate our anniversary with the little I have saved.” – Pedro, taxi driver in Varadero.

“The US doesn’t sell us the right to play their new releases movies in the cinema. What they do is to create an illegal DVD copy downloaded from the internet and play it in the movie theater. That’s the only way we can watch the latest US movies…” – Tour guide, male 24 years old.

“Every cuban can get out of the island. The problem is that no country in the world wants to give us the tourist visa to be able to travel. The easiest way to get to the US border is through Mexico.. With a limited amount of visas per year, it’s hard to get our way out. To expedite the process you have to buy the people working in the embassy and be able to skip the queue line” – Tour guide, male about 24 years old.

“Did you bring us soap?” – A woman sitting in a corner of old Havana.

“Miss, if you have anything that you don’t want, please leave it behind” – Cleaning lady from the rental house in Syboney.

“It’s not enough.. most of the time it’s simply not enough” – Taxi driver in La Havana.

“ Once a year I go to the US and buy a TV set, iphones, computers, speakers and other electronics to sell in my neighborhood. I make more money by selling these items under the table than what the government gives us the entire year…” – Lady that sat next to me on the plane from Panama to Havana.

“We like to drink in Cuba. When you enter the supermarket you’ll see three isles of just licor and three isles of other food items. Don’t expect much variety, but the selection is good” – Taxi driver in Havana

“Believe me… Fidel is still alive!” – Tour guide, male approx. 24 years old.

“Please, any spare change” – Old lady (age 75 approx.) begging for change from tourist outside Havana’s cigar factory.


  1. Me encantó este entry! Muy intetesante manteniendo una simplicidad reveladora sobre este país que para muchos sigue siendo misterioso en todo sentido. Excelente trabajo!

  2. It is kind of sad that even with 98% literacy things are so complicated when it comes to leading a life with decent income courtesy years of good education.:(

    • Mariella says

      Couldnt agree more! You know what they say: The common sense is not that common. :/

  3. Wow…this post is certainly very interesting. I have never been to Cuba but I do understand the hardships that the locals must have faced during the country’s recent history. At least things seem to be opening up a bit more now and hopefully this will continue to be a sign of things getting better. I would love to see Cuba myself one day.

  4. Abigail Sinsona says

    I love reading about the different perspectives of various cultures. THis is a nice way to showcase the culture of Havana, Cuba. I”ve always wanted to go to Cuba for its natural beauty and history, and I am sure the culture is just as vibrant!

    • Mariella says

      Thank you Abigail! Yes, I wanted to record everything I overheard 🙂

  5. It is interesting how the perspective is so different between the taxi drivers and everyone else. It would be a fascinating case study of various families in multiple regions of Cuba, what they do and how they live.

  6. Riely says

    Interesting perspectives gathered from local citizens. It’s sad to hear that while Cubans can get an education it doesn’t guarantee they will be rewarded with a career they are pursuing. I also find it hard to hear that travelling is so difficult for them. Such a shame they can’t explore the world.

  7. I loved all the things which you said about Cuba as I was not knowing much about it. I have just seen Cuba in films. 98% literacy and then also unemployed, which is very sad. Doctors run taxis.. oh such a brain drain. Also travelling is very difficult for them which really restricts them to use their skills. I would now like to visit Cuba.

  8. I think your post has both funny aspect and sad too! The fact that Cubans face hardship is not great thing to hear. But that’s a reality! Happy to know that Cuba is 98% literate!

    • Mariella says

      Yes! Every time I overheard something or a local told me something that shocked me, I made sure to write it down on my notes because I felt like I had to share it.

  9. aareeba says

    God by reading this it really sadden me knowing that with 98% of literacy they don’t have jobs??No tourist visa?? I really feel bad for them . There are lot of things in this world which needs change, definitely needs a change

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