Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
The Third Currency


There was a time in Cuba in the 80’s when holding an American bill could send you straight to jail. Even having American money at home was considered a crime.

Those times were over in the 90’s, during the “Special Period”. The help from the Soviet Union was over and the birth of the Cuban Convertible Peso – CUC (same value as the U.S dollar) accentuated the differences among citizens in terms of financial status.

Then, if if you did not have the “evil” U.S currency you would probably starve.

For the first time in the 90’s, I started handling money to buy things here and there. That is why, the American money brings memories of my teenage years and in a way, I see it as my currency too. My husband laughs when I say that the smell of the bills is still familiar.

Receiving a few “Washingtons” from my parents meant that I could buy Costa brand cookies (Tuareg and Doblon) and soft serve for 35 cents at the gas station. This was considered a luxury at the time.

We were using American dollars in Cuba for over a decade (1993-2004) until the government decided that the circulation of two currencies was better than three. I remember people not being pleased at having to change their dollars for CUCs as the “chavitos”(slang for CUCs) were considered fake dollars.

Until today, we use both the Cuban Peso and the CUC. Recently, the Cuban government has announced the plans of “unification of the currency” but I believe that will take longer than people think.

These days, I have the three currencies in my wallet again and I could not help but take a picture.



Also published on Medium.

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