It is difficult to see a barefoot child in Cuba, unless they are playing on the beach or some other place where they have taken off their shoes.
Foreign tourists (locals already understand) who have traveled to other impoverished third world nations (which locals cannot do) are surprised and tell you to your face, seemingly as a reproach to your protests and criticisms, ‘’I haven’t seen any children going barefoot here.” Sometimes the indulgent tour guide on a politicized excursion calls their attention to it, ‘’Nobody in this group has seen a barefoot child, eh?’’ and then smiles smugly as if he, himself, from his position as the last link in the chain, was personally responsible for this miracle.
Nobody is barefoot, but is it thanks to the system or in spite of the system?
Since the end of 1991, when the subsidized rationing system ended forever for shoes, clothes, and other industrial products, it has not been possible for Cubans to buy a pair of shoes for less than two weeks’ salary. No one forgets that the high salary of five hundred Cuban pesos is equivalent to twenty convertible pesos (CUCs), and it is difficult to find a pair of shoes in the stores for less than 10 CUCs. How do people who earn 300 Cuban pesos and have two teenagers manage?
Cuba has two currencies, Cuban pesos, or moneda nacional (national money), in which people are paid, and Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs) which are used by tourists and which Cubans themselves must have to buy many products. The exchange rate is about 25-to-1, with one CUC being roughly equivalent to one Canadian or American dollar or roughly half an English pound.