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This is Calle 29 in Vedado - an area just a few kms. west of central Havana. We're staying in the white and red house on the far right. You'll see this sign on houses all over Havana. It means that it's a casa particulare - the government has given permission to the owner to rent out rooms to foreigners.

The owner of our casa particulare is Lilian who also works as a librarian at the nearby hospital. She pays a hefty fee to the State to have a license to rent. On top of that she must register everyone she takes in and pay a percentage of that as well. Ours is a small 2-bedroom apartment with our own bathroom and a kitchen and costs 30 CUCs ($30 US) a day.

In 1990 when the Soviet Union, which had been supporting Cuba, collapsed the economy here went into a tailspin and people were destitute - again. They call it the "Special Period". The only thing "special" about it was that Cubans had no money and were starving. Someone in government suggested that a tiny influx of capitalism might help. And that's when this change, along with a few others, took place. And it's made a difference. It allows more tourist to visit and they in turn bring desperately needed cash.

Calle 29