A Small Fortune Found on a Cuban Street

Rosa Martinez

Park in Guantanamo, Cuba
Park in Guantanamo, Cuba

HAVANA TIMES — Spring has arrived in Cuba, bringing the rains we dearly needed to keep going. But the Cuban spring is really nothing other than the beginning of our one, eternal season on the island: the summer.

Temperatures are already reaching unbearable highs, particularly in the early afternoon. From 12 to 4 pm, there is really no place one can go to, there is nothing one can do, to avoid the stifling heat.

Here, in Cuba’s eastern end, it gets much hotter than in the rest of the country, so much so that even I was somewhat surprised when I went out for walk around the city, in search of a story or piece of news worthy of being shared with my readers.

I stood in a number of lines, not to buy anything, but to hear what people were saying, their daily complaints and same old arguments.

I sat down at a park bench to have a chat with a former workmate.

I went to the provincial museum in search of information I need for some historical research work I’m doing, but the young woman who’s been helping me with this had not gone into work that day. I headed home, unable to bear the heat any longer, feeling short of breath and my feet getting far too heavy.

While waiting for something to take me back to my neighborhood, at the outskirts of the city, I had the most pleasant surprise a poor person can have: I found a bill lying on the street – wet, dirty and crumpled.

Though there were only three people waiting at the bus stop (two youngsters, standing far from me, and I), I didn’t want to unfold the bill there, fearing the owner could come back and claim it.

I quickly put it away in my purse, without looking at the denomination. I thought it could be a 5 CUC note, maybe a 20. Oh, how I wanted for it to be a 20! How many things I’d be able to do with 20 CUCs, that is, 500 Cuban pesos.

I would soon know the amount. When I got to my neighborhood, I didn’t wait until I got home to find out, the suspense was killing me. I unfolded the note and my heart almost stopped beating. The bill read: “One thousand dollars.”

You can imagine what I felt. Never in my life had I seen so much money in one place, not in U.S. dollars or CUCs, not even in Cuban pesos.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t think much about the poor person who lost that amount. If they lost it, it’s because they had bills like it to spare, and wasn’t Cuban, because any Cuban who loses that amount of money, rest assured, will turn the city upside down looking for it, if they don’t die of a heart attack before.

If God placed that money in my hands, there must be a good reason for it.

I stopped worrying about that particular issue and began to think about how I’d put that amount of money, astronomical for me, to use. I’ll tell you what I did with my small fortune in my next post.

6 thoughts on “A Small Fortune Found on a Cuban Street

  • June 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Its good to be at home for awhile i try hard to remember how much i want to return perm and will next yr I am giving up, my visa

  • June 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

    It will be interesting to see if anyone tries to “claim” it now.

  • June 16, 2013 at 5:34 am

    I guarantee you that bill has been in Cuba since the revolution. They were taken off the market in the 1960’s.

  • June 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Rosa, of heaven’s sake, don’t spend the bill before you’ve checked out its worth to collectors!

    I Google’ed it and found that, for example, if there is a “star” at the end of the 8-digig serial number, it would be worth $1,200 to $3,200 to a collector.

    Even without a star, it’s probably worth more than $1,000. Please tread carefully!

  • June 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Last printed in 1934, seen one at a coin dealer.

  • June 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Rosa implies that money lost by a foreigner is somehow less valuable to that foreigner than it would be to a Cuban. I know visitors to Cuba who have worked two jobs for years to save enough money for a two week vacation in Cuba. I met a medical student at ELAM from Bolivia who needed the resources of three families in his pueblo to buy the airplane ticket to Cuba. To insinuate that $1000 would not be looked for by a tourist as vigorously as a Cuban is probably incorrect. By the way, I don’t think I have ever seen a $1,000 US note in circulation.

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