Last time I visited Cuba I was impressed by the resilience of the cuban people. Everyone there has a way to make money outside of the government boundaries. My friend Alberto taught himself how to make pizza, Vladimir sells hand crafted goods to tourists, and Robertico (an old communist leader) sells peanut nougats and other sweets.
The underground cuban economy runs as a capitalist society buying, selling, dealing, and trading goods to cubans and tourist to consume.
People learn new tricks and new trades and improvise in the most creative ways. My uncle Jesus became a carpenter and makes wood chairs, hammocks, entertaining systems, cabinets, and any other requests his customers may have.
What is very impressive is that my uncle also builts the equipment he uses at his modest shop in a small town in Cuba called Alacranes, Matanzas. Alacranes is located about 100 miles east of Habana, Cuba and is the town where I grew up.
I visited him last year in December and I was most impressed. I was standing in his improvised shop with wood scraps, rudimentary tools made of old an machete, a fan, and pieces of iron. His shop is one of a kind. He does what he has to do to survive in a Cuba without many resources.
I often wonder what he would do if he lived in the United States? Probably be a millionaire, he is a problem solver and makes things happen. I believe he did not go past the 8th grade in school but that never stopped him from learning. He is the one that made the boat that I came to this country in 16 years ago from a photograph, can you believe it!
Jesus has always been the kind of naturally smart guy that can pretty much do anything he puts his mind to. When I visited his house I felt so proud to see his work skills and his workshop.
In a land without Home Depot or Lowes if you need a table saw you make it yourself.
My uncle had put together a funtional money producing workshop with old motors, pieces of metals, and old tools he either found laying around or bought from neighbors. He not only does woodwork, he also makes the tools he needs to work with.
He made me two chairs, a kid’s hammock, and two keys hangers. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to bring them into the United States, but I tried anyways. To my surprise I was able to get them on the plane and I brought them to Miami.
Below you can see my uncle, his workshop pictures, and pictures of the items he made for me.
Next time you visit a home improvement store think how lucky you are to find all the tools and supplies you need. If there is ever a time you can’t find something at the store to carry on a project please remember my uncle Jesus in his day to day strugles to get his work done.