I wasn't sure at the time, but my visit to Cuba in 2006 might be the last opportunity to see Fidel give a Labour Day speech in person. Indeed it was as Fidel stepped aside shortly after to make way for his brother Raul. At the time of the visit, Cuba was clearly in a desperate position financially. Two currencies existed in parallel: peso national - for the locals; and peso convertible - for the foreigners. The ratio was 20:1 although the prices in shops only showed one price. Which meant as a foreigner, you were paying 20x market price. Even with this extreme mark-up, goods were still cheap, where they were available. Outside of Havana, grocery stores were typically empty apart from bags of coffee sachets and toilet paper. Bread sold out quickly in every morning. We stayed at hostels - the license to operate cost USD400/month. So effectively you could only make a profit if you had an occupancy rate over 66%. As a result, the buses bringing tourists to rural neighborhoods were greeted with hostel owners each waving their accreditations: Lonely Planet comments, Trip Advisor ratings, whatever else they could do to attract the visitors, the majority of whom couldn’t book ahead online because the hostels didn’t have the ability to handle such requests. As a visitor, the challenge was to shortlist the hostels that sounded the best, and then fight to find the owner in the crowd before had accumulated the capacity for the night. Despite, what the West would recognize as desperate times, the communities themselves did not feel that way. Of course, the more educated were able to articulate the challenges more transparently. A highly experienced doctor we stayed with made US$20 per month. His family had made it across to the USA but he had stayed behind in the country that was stuck in 1969 permanently.