Sunday, April 16, 2023

Cuba Day Four

The three of us started the day taking a taxi to Old Havana and simply walked around. The homes in Havana are run down. They struggle with getting basic materials and there lives show it. In the home below you can see how they split one floor into two. This extra weight puts stress on the building and you see many collapsed buildings because of it. 

Let’s talk a bit about the complexity of Cuba. As I do with every country I visit I learned so much. Note, everything I share below is my interpretation after speaking with many Cubans and some statements are opinions. 

First, the Cuban people are lovely and generally like Americans. However, they do not like how our government has such a huge impact on their lives. The Cubans I met believe Fidel Castro was sincere about  improving the lives of working class Cubans when leading the revolution that brought down the repressive Batista administration in 1959. Batista’s administration was horrible by benefiting from 70% of Cuban land being owned by foreigners (the majority Americans) and working with the American mafia. In other words, Americans contributed to the widening gap between the rich and poor. 

So, if Castro was so good why is Cuba struggling? 

First, Cubans do not look hungry. Essentially no one is homeless. Everyone has free health care that is accessible (unlike Canada where surgical waits are long). Ninety-five percent of Cubans graduate from high school (in America it is 85%) and everyone I met had a college degree (also free). The infant mortality is only 4/1000 whereas in the US it is 5.9/1000. Lots of good things. 

But, basic things are short in supply like toilet paper, cars (that is why you see the classic cars because they are a necessity), building materials, etc. 

In 1962 the American government proclaimed an embargo between the United States and Cuba cutting off trade except for food and medicine. Kennedy’s administration did so because of Castro’s connections with the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the sanctions have clearly not improved the lives of Cubans, so why have the limits on trade not been removed? That is the million dollar question I will not answer here. 

In 2014 Obama lifted some of the restrictions. The Cuban people love Obama. He brought cruise ships back to the island which improved their lives greatly with tourism dollars and stimulated free business. The Cubans told me they would cheer upon the arrival of every ship. 

But Trump reversed all of that good stuff in 2017. The Cubans hate Trump (along with 58% of Americans). So what did Trump gain from hurting the Cuban people? Votes. Although I am still unclear what he got from reversing those changes, I am confident it was not to help the Cuban people. 

The United Nations condemns the American sanctions and after spending time in Cuba I agree they are a failed attempt to achieve any goals. 

You cannot visit Cuba without talking about politics because…Cuba. We all know “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”.

Back to my regularly scheduled program…

We went on an Afro-Cuban walking tour next. I have learned a ton about religion throughout my travels and cuba is a unique country in that several religions have blended together over time (natives, Spaniards, and slaves brought over by Spaniards). Racism exists in Cuba but they also have integration and the racism is nothing like in America. Also below is the yummy mojito and cerveza drink I had for lunch. 

That evening we went to a Cuban family’s home we found via an Airbnb Experience and had a Cuban dinner. Lester and his mom were so welcoming and we all got a bit buzzed off the Rumsee I brought (which I thought was more like a wine but turned out to be straight rum!). The meal was delicious and it was so nice to be welcomed into their home. 

Lina, Donna and I ended the evening at Bar Fellini listening to a band Interactivo. I love watching Latinos dance. It made me miss Henry more than usual. 

It was a jam packed day!

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