Cuba on the Buses

Ken Hiebert*

ken-hubert3HAVANA TIMES — Tour buses are a common sight in Cuba. Our first week in Cuba we travelled on a comfortable tour bus, made in China. The streets of Trinidad, where we spent one night, were crawling with tour buses.

One day, as we stood on a hill looking down into central Havana, I counted 26 tour buses along the Av. Carlos Manuel de Cespedes.

Between cities we travelled on the Viazul system.  Again, comfortable new buses, but too expensive for many Cubans. Cubans standing next to the highway holding up paper money are a common sight.

City buses. I had heard of the “camels,” enclosed trailers pulled by trucks. I did not see any in use.  Once, in Santa Clara, we passed by a works yard with two of these camels still intact.  But these have been replaced by modern buses, some of them the articulated buses I am familiar with on city streets in Canada.  Large numbers of people impatiently waiting for the bus was another sight familiar to me from Canada.

ken1We actually travelled on the city bus on our last day. We were going to an outlying area of Havana, Ciudad Libertad. We intended to take a taxi, but the man at our “casa particular” (homestay) said it would be easy to take the bus.

The bus stop was just across the street. The bus was inexpensive and crowded. I engaged one man near me to ask for help. He was friendly, but I didn’t understand a word of his Spanish.  At this point another man spoke up.  His English was excellent.

He was a Cuban who had spent twelve years in the US from childhood into young adulthood. He was able to give us the information the first man had tried to give us. He also told us of his time in the US. With a Nicaraguan friend he had driven across five states in eight days.

Two days were in Texas. He described his feeling toward Texas as “love, hate, love, hate.”  I wish we had had more time to talk to him. I can only speculate that his reaction to Texas was due to anti-Hispanic racism. I did ask him how he liked it in Cuba. His reply, “I love it.”  We had a date to keep, so we couldn’t spend more time with him.

ken-2There were all ages on the bus. One young man had an outlandish haircut that I might expect to see in a big city in the US. One teenager had a stud in his tongue. He was part of a large group of teenagers who got on the bus as we were returning to downtown Havana. They may have just come from a pool, as their clothing was wet and clammy.

My partner thought they were sixteen and seventeen.  I thought they were fifteen and under.  They were a boisterous group. They sang over the recorded music on the bus.  Or did they sing with it, I’m not sure. It must have been a popular song, one they all knew.  I listened carefully and did not understand a word.  Well, maybe one word, “patria,” literally fatherland. But I can’t be sure. They sang, almost chanted, the song in unison, with great precision.

Were they exuberant because Cuba is a great place to be as a young person? Or because it was the weekend and a break from a demanding school week?  I didn’t ask.

(*) A Havana Times reader


6 thoughts on “Cuba on the Buses

  • May 15, 2014 at 3:08 pm
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    Cuba is known for old cars and buses they are very interesting you do not see those anywhere except in cuba. wow! Cuba is amazing

  • July 6, 2013 at 9:10 am
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    I can assure you, it has nothing to do with the fact that Cuba is a great place to be as a young person. There’s nothing to look forward to after years of studying because whether you perform brain surgery or whether you sweep the floor, you will only get about $20 a month and might still live in a shack.

    They are happy because the Cuban spirit is about finding laughter even in the saddest of situations.

  • July 6, 2013 at 8:53 am
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    One must live here to know the truth Its like putting $$ where mouth is

  • July 5, 2013 at 5:22 pm
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    Very pleasant post. Another fine example of how Cuba is an interesting place to visit as a tourist. Unfortunately, it remains another thing to live there

  • July 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm
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    What a superficial account of a multilayer reality. The transportation in Cuba is a long lasting problem that the regimen its been unable to solve. The transport work perfectly in the small scale of tourism, but for the general population is a endless daily nightmare. Nothing is going to be solve in Cuba until the labor forces are free from the tied fist of the Castro brother.

  • July 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm
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    viva Cuba!!!!!

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