When I got into his car and heard his GPS, I recognized it was Spanish language, but it had flair. (I didn’t know GPS could be adjusted to sound super fancy like that!) After we made it to the first light, I asked him if he would mind telling me where he was from, and he told me Cuba. He told me that he had friends nearby who had a restaurant that was traditional Cuban food that was very good and had been open for about ten years. I don’t get to go out to eat very often because I’m on a strict budget, but I mentally made note just in case I needed to keep it as an option in the future.

I asked the driver if there was anything that he missed about Cuba. This ended up being a very serious discussion for the duration of my ride. First he told me that his parents still lived there and they were unable to emigrate, but his sister and brother came with him to the U.S.. His parents are in their 70s and at this point will stay put, though they would all prefer to be together. I asked him what his parents did when they were still working. He told me they were accountants, and they were only paid the U.S. equivalent of $12/month.

Under the rule of Fidel Castro, and the subsequent embargos from the U.S., the citizens of Cuba constantly faced shortages and outages. By now, everyone should be familiar with the classic cars from Cuba, where it looks like time has stood still; really it’s because they haven’t been able to get anything new and everyone has had to scrape together whatever they can to keep the cars running. Utilities like electricity were always a problem. There was no keeping the lights on. Castro also had an arrangement with Pablo Escobar to move cocaine to keep his military aspirations funded. Castro also insisted on “donations” from everyone but especially those working in higher paid professions, like doctors. They could pull in $5,100 monthly as salary, but then Castro would insist that $5,000 would have to be paid to him, again to “keep the military strong.” This was not really because of outside threats. Castro would kill the Cuban citizens for trying to leave. My driver said Cuba was a cage, a prison. Now that they are no longer under the rule of Fidel and his brother Raul, Cuba has slowly been updating, but even the internet was only introduced two years ago.

This driver has some concerns very specific to his situation. For example, how difficult is it going to be to get to his parents if something happens to one or both of them? What if communication is cut off again? Will his parents ever see some of the grandchildren born in the U.S.?