Juan Luis Rosello sat for three hours on the Malecon as the wind blew in from the Florida Straits, pushing the waves hard against the seawall of Havana’s coastal boulevard.
As darkness settled and the wind switched direction, Rosello pulled four condoms from a satchel and began to blow them up. When the contraceptives were the size of balloons, the 47-year-old cafeteria worker tied them together by their ends, attached them to the end of a baited fishing line and set them floating on the tide until they reached the end of his 750-foot line.
After six decades under U.S. embargo and Soviet-inspired central planning, Cubans have become masters at finding ingenious solutions with extremely limited resources. Few are as creative as what Havana’s fishermen call “balloon fishing,” a technique employing a couple of cents worth of government-subsidized condoms to pull fish worth an average month’s salary from the ocean.