(Photographs by Gonzalo Vidal)
What do you do with a hole in your shoe, or if the sole is flapping loose? When your heel comes off, do you throw the shoes away and go shopping for some new ones, or just put them to one side and use instead one of the many other pairs that are lurking in your closet?
Most Cubans do not have that luxury, so taken for granted by most inhabitants of wealthier countries, where even if you have a low income you can go to a factory outlet or bargain shoe warehouse, to at least make sure that you need not go barefooted. There are shoe shops in the island, but they are few, generally to be found in the city centres. And when the prices are compared to the average income of an average Cuban, they are clearly beyond the reach of most. A pair of shoes sold in the shops costs several months’ wages; and with the cost of living, including food, on the rise, only those with access to hard currency earnings, or remittances from outside, can really aspire to replace what they wear on their feet. Most people wear shoes that were brought to them by family and friends, visiting Cuba or returning from journeys to other countries. Continue reading