Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
Cuban ID (Carnet de Identidad)
Categories: Cuba Inside Out

In the last few days I have forgotten to carry my ID. I bring my Canadian driver’s license everywhere I go but last weekend we went to a bar, gave it to my husband to carry and forgot to ask him afterwards to give it back to me. It terrifies me a little bit.

I may have a small obsession and of course, I have the Cuban government to thank for. I think it is healthy to recognize an deal with your Cuban traumas.

All Cubans know that they have to bring their “carnet de identidad” at all times. Police officers anywhere are entitled to ask you for ID, even if you are peacefully walking down your street.

When Cuban citizens turn 16 they have to go to a government office and apply for the ID card (it used to be an ugly booklet until the 90’s). There, they file your information with your photograph and take all your fingerprints. Cuban government is known for controlling its people and they are masters of the subject.

From there on you are tied to your identification card forever, like I am still are.

In Havana, I was constantly asked for ID at the corner of my house because of  regular government activities nearby. I used to dislike it immensely. They would not allow you to walk farther if you were not from the area. Sometimes I would get so uncomfortable that I would say out loud: -“I live there! Why do I have to carry my ID to go to my friends’ place around the corner?”- After a while it would become amusing for them if I complained. Cuban police needs to learn a thing or two about playing the authority.

The ID shows your name and address (handwritten by a person who failed Calligraphy), thumb fingerprint, weight, height, race and eye colour. It is a bit too specific if you ask me.

I never had my race indicated on the Canadian Driver’s License. You can only find my place of birth on it. On no occasion I had my fingerprints taken in Toronto. I was never asked for my ID by the authority. Kudos to Canada for that.

Unfortunately, I still like/need to carry my ID all the time. “I am bringing it just in case” I would say to myself… I cannot get rid of this habit. There is a great sense of insecurity if I do not have it in my purse. I would love to believe that I am the only one.

Also published on Medium.

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