Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

Barbershops Revisited: Back to Cuba Again Part 6.

Now that barbershops in Cuba with 3 or fewer seats have been privatized, I am anxious to see what if anything has changed,. So on our first full day in Cuba (Saturday, March 19, 2011) we headed for the Plaza de Armas to find the two-chair barbershop where I had gotten a shave two years.

In a way it was like a typical small town U.S. barbershop—bunch of retired oldsters gossiping with the barber who would have also been retired if he had not been a barber.

They were talking about a recent government shake-up. Perhaps because they assumed that I did not understand the talk was frank and fascinating.  I itched to ask some questions, but was afraid they would be less candid if they realized I understood—not to mention that Gilberto, the barber, had a blade to my throat.  Now that the shop was private, I decided I was going to be more forthcoming.

The shop was not precisely where we remembered it.  At first we were afraid that we had the wrong Plaza. (Old Havana is full of them.)  Then Yolanda spotted it.

I went to go in…..

and this is what I saw.

We set off to find another private barbershop.  In a much less touristy part of town we found Hector.

The shop was under a stairwell where  Hector shared the space with a private pizzeria and private shoe-repair shop.

No need to coax Hector to talk.  He started right out by warning Yolanda that he was going to make me so attractive that a Cuban women would steal me.  He warned me that Yolanda was so beautiful already that a Cuban man would steal her.

He asked us how long than we had been together.

“More than 30 years.”

“Than you have nothing to worry about.  The force of habit is much stronger than love.”

As much as I was relieved that I did not have worry about loosing Yolanda, I wanted to find out what he thought about the privatization of small barbershops.  I asked him how it was different working for himself and working for the State. He said he had never worked for the state.  I asked him how he managed that. He answered with one word, “¡Cojones!”

It was the worst and most uncomfortable barber shave I have ever had—and worth it!

Still no correct answer to what the barber told me he used for practice in the absence of peaches or what Yolanda loves about the Newspapers in Cuba, or what Yolanda did when after a long hot day of biking the shower did not work in Hotel. The contest continues.

More posts on Cuba to come, though I’ll probably start to intersperse them with other topics.

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Comments and Replies

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    • At April 16, 2011
      10:43:44 pm
      Merrily Miller said:

      Michael: I just found your blogs in our junk mail. We have very fussy Mac that takes it upon itself to decide what is junk. I enjoyed your blogs and it did bring back our experience in Cuba. After our forst trip we certainly would return. We are also thinking seriously about Costa Rica. Good to hear from you. Merrily

      • At April 13, 2011
        6:26:03 am
        Gordon said:

        Michael: I am surprised that noone has yet given an answer to what the barber uses for shaving practice. It was an old trick to use balloons and if shaving creame was taken off an inflated balloon the barber was granted his license. Your posts on Cuba transport me. Did Yolanda cool off with a mojito when the shower failed?

        • At April 13, 2011
          2:44:22 am
          Chris Parrott said:

          I’m quite sure that at some time, Michael, you told me what Cuban traineee barbers practice on, but I couldn’t remember. It’ll come back to me I thought. And then I can announce it and look wise and astute and clever (and hope that you didn’t remember telling me, and denounce me as a cheat).

          But it’s not just that my memory is playing tricks on me. It seems to have deserted me completely. So I’m just going to rely on intuition – usually the domain of women – and have a stab at it.

          They shaved their own legs.I’m sure this would have appealed to the cyclist in you.

          Yolanda’s shower: I’d guess WowCuba provided a short length of hosepipe which you attached to the basin tap; or you possibly drilled holes in a plastic bucket and suspended it, full of water.

          All of these seem to bit too obvious. But, having given it a go, at least I needn’t lose any more sleep over it.


          • At April 13, 2011
            7:08:31 am
            Kristen MacQueen replied
            to :

            Chris, you’re very, very warm on both of your guesses….. I can’t give away the answers since I have insider information on these quizzes, but you’re on the right track!

            • At April 13, 2011
              8:28:52 am
              Chris Parrott replied
              to :

              Well Kristen, at the risk of both offending your sensibilities and getting the moderator into a lather:

              my next guess is that Cuban barbers perform, either on themselves or on their girlfriends, what the British popular press rather coyly calls “A Brazilian”.

              It would certainly call for a steady hand and absolute trust.


          • At April 13, 2011
            9:30:16 am
            Kristen MacQueen replied
            to :

            You’ve REALLY got me chuckling now.