Join Our
Skip to main content

Black Market: Cuba, Through My Eyes Vol. 4

All the people in Cuba try to make a living in different ways, this is called the “black market.”

The black market consists of everyone stealing from their work and selling it illegally. Because salaries are so low, everyone needs to find a way to survive. Here are some examples of ways people survive with the Black Market in Cuba. 

Contractors sell cement and some other building materials, nurses and doctors steal medication, bakers steal flour and sugar and chefs in the restaurants sell meat or ham or cheese. When people who work in the stores are supposed to re-stock the shelves, they save a lot of this product to sell it later for even more expensive price. Employees working at tourist resorts steal from the hotel everything they can. 

When traveling across the countryside, the people that you see on the side of the highway, they sell garlic, onion and cheese. This is also part of the black market.   

At least one member of the family needs to have an extra resource of income like this.

Clothing is also a big black market business in Cuba. The Cubans fly to Guyana, Russia or Panama (countries we don’t need a visa to fly) to buy clothing and shoes for cheap and sell it in Cuba for twice the price they pay for. This was evident on our trip to Guyana for our visa interview, our plane was full of Cubans looking to buy clothing and bring it back to sell. 

Other ways in which the black market operates are the giving and receiving of gifts for services. If you need attorney services, doctor appointments or things of this nature, gifts like money, bottles of rum, food all help to pay for services. 

And even when flying to Cuba to visit family and you bring more than the weight you supposed to or something you don’t supposed to bring, the airport officials take it from you, but of course this is not going anywhere other than these people’s houses if they like for themselves. If not, they will sell it.

As you can see, without the black market it would be almost impossible to survive.

In the next blog, I will talk about my experiences with education in Cuba. Education here is free, but not as good as you might believe.

Thanks for following.

Jany Novik

About the author

Jany Novik

Hi. I’m Jany Novik. I worked for Avalon as the cruise director aboard the flagship vessel, Avalon II in Jardines De La Reina, Cuba. I now live and work in the United States with my husband, Brett. I bring to Tidehead, years of “hands on” experience working for Avalon, strong relationships with Avalon guides and staff and a passion for providing a memorable experience for all of our guests.

Back to top