Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the road, Havana, Cuba, 2008

With one day left on the rental car, after driving to the furthest eastern point of the island, a decision is made to get in the car by myself and drive to the furthest western part of the island. Getting in the car is easy and heading in the opposite direction of the morning sun easier.

The road is filled with people waiting for a ride, some on public transportation and some in the cars of strangers. The thought of transporting a family further down the road enters my mind at every crossroad. Seeing a single person in a car without anyone else seems foreign to all on the road, as interpreted by me from their facial expressions. Neglecting to pick up a family is based on the need to keep my presence on the island from under the microscope of the authorities, having run into an official a bit earlier on the road. Nonetheless, every crossing proves to be a difficult experience, without exception.

Billboards are everywhere, with slogans and statements supporting the movement. They stand alone, like signs frozen in time. Alongside these same roads men are seen with blades, cutting the grass. They are assigned to a certain portion of the road. They work under the hot sun, for ten hours a day, manually cutting the grass for a monthly wage of $20. A few allow me to photograph them while working.

Then along comes a young made asking for my help. He tells me that his car is broken, about 100 meters from my car. He tells me that he needs a ride to the next exit. He steps away for a second to check on his car. At that moment, the men take a break from cutting the grass and warn me regarding this young man, telling me that his approach is a scam. They tell me to be careful.

Here are these men, working for a wage that compares to perhaps three hours of minimum wage in the States, caring enough to warn me about their fellow comrade. They prove to me as correct my decision to drive alone to the western part of this island. We separate saying our goodbyes and they continue on the road with their work.