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Reporter's notebook: Restroom attendant rents space from state

Woman pays Cuban government for access to tourists' tips

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HAVANA – At a restaurant in Old Havana, a woman set up a table outside of the restroom. The 55-year-old woman stands ready to keep things orderly. She provides soap and toilet paper, and she works for tips. 

I didn't have change, so I gave her my word. I was going to return with some money for her. After talking to a waitress at the state-owned restaurant, I learned the woman was not a restaurant employee. She rents the space from the government. 

When I returned to leave her a Cuban Convertible Peso, which is about $24 Cuban pesos, she explained her business model. She pays the state about $6.33 USD a month -- $70 Cuban pesos a month and $82 Cuban pesos for social security -- to be able to work at the restaurant.

It doesn't sound like a lot, but her only income comes from tips and she has to supply the toilet paper and the soap. She said she works about 13-hour days. The restaurant is open from 9 a.m to 10 p.m., but she arrives about 30 minutes earlier to clean the bathroom and set up her space. 

If you are ever in Cuba, you may run into a woman working as a restroom attendant at a restaurant. Now you know how much those coins you will give her really mean. 

The restaurant was not identified to protect the woman's identity. 

Local 10 News' Andrea Torres contributed to this story.


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