A writer takes a trip to visit his wife’s family. What has changed in the country over the years, and what hasn’t:
For obvious reasons, the actual Cuban peso is worth much less than the other, dollar-equivalent Cuban peso, something on the order of 25 to 1. But the driver said simply, ‘No, they are equal.’
‘Really?’ my wife said. ‘No … that can’t be.’
He insisted that there was no difference between the relative values of the currencies. They were the same.
He knew that this was wrong. He probably could have told you the exchange rates from that morning. But he also knew that it had a rightness in it. For official accounting purposes, the two currencies are considered equivalent. Their respective values might fluctuate on a given day, of course, but it couldn’t be said that the CUP was worth less than the CUC That’s partly what he meant. He also meant that if you’re going to fly to Cuba from Miami and rub it in my face that our money is worth one twenty-fifth of yours, I’m gonna feed you some hilarious communist math and see how you like it. Cubans call it la doble moral. Meaning, different situations call forth different ethical codes. He wasn’t being deceptive. He was saying what my wife forced him to say.