Cubans on the first U.S. commercial flight to the island in two years arrived with many precious things: basic medicines, video games - and lots of U.S. dollars.
So after the hugs, the kisses, the big family meals, Cuban emigres visiting from south Florida got down to the serious business of shopping.Armed with coveted U.S. greenbacks, the visitors bought their loved ones shampoo, soap, vegetable oil - basic things many Cubans often must do without because they do not have American dollars.
"I feel happy to be able to help my family, and to see them," said Daisy Dominguez, who works at a supermarket cafeteria in Hollywood, Fla.
Sending and bringing U.S. dollars to loved ones in Cuba - and taking relatives shopping at dollar-only stores during family visits - has become an increasingly important act for emigres now living 200 miles to the north in the Miami area.
Even the most basic foodstuffs are in short supply at government-run markets, where items are sold in Cuban pesos, now traded at about 19 to the dollar at official exchange houses.
Without dollars, families cannot buy bath soap and other personal care items.
Dominguez was among many passengers bringing dollars to their families when they traveled Wednesday on the first nonstop commercial flight from the United States to Cuba since 1996.
Within 24 hours after arriving, she and six others crowded into a tiny Soviet-made Moskvich sedan to buy her ex-husband and the father of her 9-year-old son four rolls of American-made toilet paper at a dollar-only store.
At $1.19 each, the two-ply rolls are prohibitively expensive for her former husband, Alberto Yuri Alvarez, 37, whose monthly salary at a government bakery is equivalent to about $7.