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Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

New Year’s and Havana Thieves

December 21, 2012 | Print Print |

Regina Cano

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — When the end of the year holidays approach, thieves enter the picture and begin stealing other people’s belongings.

Of course they’re always around; it’s just that they’re more fervent at this time than during the rest of the year, just like in other big cities of the planet.

Around this time, it’s common for people here to start advising each other not to carry around very much money and to keep their wallets out of sight when in public.

We’re told not to wear gold chains or anything else of value so as “not to tempt the devil.”

But people! There are always a few folks who are careless and thus guarantee the most adept thieves their profit.

Unfortunately, the end of the year celebrations and the wanting to “have a good time” — combined with the absence of the material means to achieve this — encourage many of those who are criminally prone to try to obtain these rewards the “easy way,” if that’s what you can call the act of violating others to accomplish such an end.

Pickpockets take advantage of the turmoil on buses, while others will snatch chains from the necks of their owners or violently strip people of their purses or daypacks. These are the prizes awarded to thieves from abusing other residents of Havana.

With caution and a lot of nerve they go around robbing people, who in their impotence don’t even notify the police.

The victims know that the time spent on complaining and answering questions is usually to no avail. Those are useless acts that end up only frustrating those who attempt them. Plus, how’s anyone going to actually catch the long-gone thief?

During this same period there are also increases in other types of theft, such as burglaries and pilfering from state-run facilities, though these are also common occurrences at other times of year.

Over the last few days I’ve witnessed two pickpocketing incidents on buses.

One happened to a man who said they took not only his wallet from out of his pocket, but also the keys to his house and job. These were all attached to a chain clipped to his belt.

The second incident involved an elderly woman. She had her wallet lifted from her purse.

Both of them tried to pursue the suspected thieves, but these bandits were so fast that they left each of the victims only with a sense of impotence in their attempts at recovery.

Then too, both situations were complicated because they didn’t know for sure who the “perps” were; each of the incidents probably involved more than one pickpocket – as people always say.

One of the most common sorrows is the loss of ID and other documents that are always difficult to re-obtain.

Pickpockets and purse snatchers deliver hard blows to ordinary Cubans, who sometimes carry some or all of their savings on them, be it for the holidays or — in the worst cases — money for remedying an urgent problem.


What's your opinion?

  • Michael N. Landis

    In the middle of the night this past October a thief attempted to steal clothes off the clothes-line in a neighbor’s back-yard, on Avenida 51 in San Agustin. Fortunately, my friend’s dogs, “Blanco” and “Negro,” alerted him. Jumping out of bed, he grabbed his machete and dashed outside. Although the thief escaped, my friend recognized him as someone from the “hood,” and he will be dealt with by the community. Also, my friend’s menacing threw a tremendous scare into the thief. Perhaps Saudi “justice” is best in such cases–loss of some fingers, a hand, or, in repeat cases,, an arm or a leg!

  • Michael Roy

    As a tourist I always had to be vigilant on my visits to Havana and I only carried as much money as I was prepared to lose, usually 30CUC. (this is a lot for a Cuban to lose) It was my digital camera that worried me the most. Not so much the camera (for all my electronics were well insured) but the memory card and the photos that it contained. My whole day`s work. I brought a lap top and a dvd burner and made sure that I backed up all of my photos every night and also hid the DVD well just in case… Guanabo was also ripe with thieves in the summer and they were not just after foreigners. Though I always had to be careful at night. Many Casa`s were being broken into. It got so bad my last visit that my host even had to hire a guard for the night to sit outside my door… And there was always Linda, a friendly German barking machine… She would always warn me that something was up and she saved me one night from thieves trying to get over the wall..