When traveling I often search high and low to find something that truly speaks to not only the country but also the culture of its people. I didn’t have any great expectations when going to Cuba, except for the typical Cuban souvenirs of cigars and rum. To which I returned with neither of them. Throughout my travels, I often have a hard time trying to find the right purchases that truly speak to the country. Visiting Italy and France were surprisingly disappointing when hoping to find unique couture that spoke to their incredibly rich history of fashion. And it seems across the world we have become so global that these same brands make their appearance around the world. From the H&M’s to the Zara’s of the world. Believe me, I mean no disrespect as I’m happy to support them too. However, when I travel I want something authentic and hopefully something that ultimately benefits its people who reside there. And in this case, I FINALLY was successful. Although we truly happened to stumble upon this place, it was a total diamond in the rough. For many of the streets throughout Havana can be a bit questionable in places. This is what gives this places its rich flavor and diversity though finding this little place, Clandestina was certainly a welcomed and celebrated discovery.
Clandestina is a boutique that offers upcycled EVERYTHING. From t-shirts, to cosmetic bags and totes- their entire inventory had lived a previous life as something else before. Since I am such a bag lady I decided a Cuba cosmetic bag was an essential take away from this adorable store. I also found the “need” to purchase a neon green handkerchief donned with T-Rex all over it. (Imagine, the heat in Havana is so intense, I justified this purchase by thinking I’d use this to keep myself dry in the humidity of the city) Haha. Whatever helped justify something I didn’t truly need. Though I felt the need to support this business. Not only was it a way to repurpose but also a new hope for Havana- cleaning up what otherwise would end up in the trash and instead offered the elderly of Cuba a chance to make money. So, apparently my purchase was justified from the moment I walked in the door. Besides, we were on a People to People trip- no better way to contribute than in supporting and promoting their efforts and forward thinking.
It was apparent through this trip that many are trying to move Cuba forward, past all the struggle and open to creating new opportunities for all. We rented an AirBnB and on the last day of our stay, the woman who came to clean our place told us about the reality of making money in Cuba. As she sat at the table folding white paper and glueing them together to make envelopes for Tourist to purchase items from the locals- like myself. I noticed I already had many of these same bags in my possession from shopping the local markets, that she had made for the tourists. The sad part about it all was that she had to make 100 of these envelopes to make $1.00. Talk about perspective. This is where you truly dive into the culture and it’s people to see how people are living across the world. She was such a hard worker with the most incredible spirit. Instantly my friend and I realized here was another chance to give back to the people of Cuba. We left her Nike’s, Michael Kors sandals, a boat load of toiletries and so on. It was the least we could do to support this woman who was striving to make a difference in her life however she could. She showed us the incredible spirit and dedication to keep moving forward to create the Cuba that this society has yearned for, for lifetimes. Cuba Libre!!
For your chance to support their efforts-