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Jinetero (Hustler)

Our guidebook warned us about something called Jineteros: Habaneros that prey on tourists for pesos. Jet lag seems to make one an easy target for their wily schemes and charm. The recording in this song was taken from a crowd of Cubans in Jose Marti square, just across from the Hotel Plaza. They were shouting and gesticulating passionately at each other. Someone later told me they were probably talking about baseball.

During our first foray out of the hotel, we hadn’t gone far before a Habanero convinced us to take a horse drawn carriage tour of the city. Johan and Michel were real characters. Johan kept hollering at women as we went along, and continually explained why Canada is the best country in the world, and why Cuba is the worst country in the world.

They took us to the “Casa de Dos Hermanos”, a bar that Hemingway and Marlon Brando apparently used to frequent. There they told us we could get the best mojitos in Cuba, and they would even serve them in plastic glasses that we could take with us on the horse tour. Instead we stayed at the bar where we were talked into buying drinks for our guides. Once we left the bar, they took us through some side streets to show us how Cubans really live. They described some of the apartments as Iraq or Afghanistan, which was not far from the truth. Truly these people are living in some desperate circumstances.

They took us to a cigar factory, but first told us that they would afterward take us to a place where we could buy the cigars at half price because “the workers receive some of their wages in cigars”. We had no intention of buying cigars on our first day but figured it couldn’t hurt to see the place, thinking we could return after coming back from Vinales on the final leg of our trip. This proved to be a naive assessment. The “market” that I expected turned out to be someone’s apartment where we were told to shut the door behind us. We bought a small box of 5 “as a gift to the Cuban people”.

After the tour we returned to the hotel and crashed again. I woke up with clogged sinuses and bloodshot eyes. We stepped out to try to find a certain rooftop restaurant but ended up going the wrong way and took a long detour. We ended up on a narrow street packed with Habaneros where we were approached by a man named John who spoke good English. He asked to take us to his friend’s house for dinner. We had heard of these paladares, Cuban family restaurants run out of homes. We were pretty hungry by this point, still a long way away from our target, and eager to dive into an authentic Cuban experience so we agreed.

We had a lovely dinner of lobster, rice with black beans, salad, and bread. John’s friend Danny kept us company and translated for the hostess so we bought him a beer. Then John returned and it turned out it was his birthday (what a coincidence!) so we bought him a beer too. After dinner they wanted to take us to another bar for more drinks. When we got there, John and Danny had to speak with a police officer and Tania and I realized we were low on pesos and started feeling naive. We left the bar and were intercepted by a friend of John and Danny who explained that they would meet us at another bar.

By the time we finished explaining to the third friend that we had no money for drinks, John and Danny returned and we had to do the whole explanation over again. Once they realized there were no drinks, pesos or t-shirts to be had they disappeared without a word. Third friend said he would help us get back to the hotel, but that proved otherwise. Basically he led us towards the hotel as far as the nearest dark alley where he asked for some pesos for his trouble. Over a couple daiquiris on the patio at our hotel, Tania and I resolved to be less naive. We’ll see how well we do with that. Hopefully blaming sleep deprivation proves correct.


from Sonidos de Cuba, released April 26, 2013
Thomas Towers - Congas
James Kang - Electric Guitar
Matt Grant - Vocals
Rudy Gill - Vocals
Features an MFB Kraftzwerg and an Access Virus TI Synthesizer



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ScottMFR Vancouver, British Columbia

Scott Michael Francis Riesterer is a Sound Designer from Vancouver, Canada. He has contributed his audio skills to documentaries, short films, video games, and the Chevrolet Volt. Musically he dabbles in electronic genres like Downtempo, House, Techno, and Breaks. His latest project, Sonidos De Cuba is an ambitious album built upon field recordings from his travels in Cuba. ... more

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