can the visitor to Cuba expect?”
is much more than white sands, turquoise waters and palm trees. This
is perhaps the only Caribbean island with a major historical past.
The heady scent of rum and cigar smoke, the bittersweet strains of
Cuban music and the diversity of the local inhabitants all captivate
visitors, until before long they’ve completely forgotten the
European winter. There is one thing you
must leave behind: Your comfort zone. I
wouldn’t be too eager to recommend Cuba to novice travelers, unless
they’re planning to spend the time lounging by the pool in an
of today, the country is still a socialist state. The influence of
state control and shortages are visible everywhere, from shop shelves
to restaurant tables. One universal characteristic is that there’s
less choice of, for example, groceries, than we’d be used to –
and locals may have limited access even to what there is – while a
lack of ingredients mean that restaurants are simply unable to offer
a wide range of options on their menus.
is widespread throughout the country, which sometimes leads to
circumstances which are simply unimaginable for us. The roads –
that is, the few that there are – are in extremely bad condition,
and even the major highways are used by bicycles, horse carts, and
any other kind of vehicle, in addition to cars and buses. The
buildings are also often run down, and in Havana it’s by no means
rare to see a house that has collapsed in on itself.
course, they do aspire to become a more popular tourist destination,
so some may be lucky enough to find more modern accommodation, but
don’t expect European levels of quality or service in hotels.
Cubans from other Central American countries is the strength and
attitude they possess. In contrast to the inhabitants of many other
Latin American nations, the Cubans don’t really complain or grumble
about everything. This doesn’t mean they passively go along with
everything, but they live their lives as best they can. This is a
common exchange among them: “¿Que
bola mama, como va la cosa? (Hey mom,
how are things?) to which she replies “Pues
aqui, luchando (Well, we’re here,
work tremendously hard (the ones who work and don’t live off the
state, I mean, or remittances from their relatives in Florida). One
retired lady I know cooks food every morning, then wraps it in paper
and sells it through her window to passers-by, to earn a little money
to supplement her pension. Banana chips in a paper pouch are three
pesos. Rice and meat is 10 pesos.
The Cuban character,
attitude and friendliness are worthy of respect. They call everyone
my love, and they send kisses to everyone’s family – even if
they’ve never met them.
Their creativity and
ingenuity are simply staggering, because in Cuba its practically
impossible to buy anything new (either because the price is
outrageously high, or because it simply isn’t to be found). Instead
they find creative solutions for all manner of problems, and reuse
things over and over. Nothing is ever thrown away. Instead, things
are transformed, repaired, or turned into something totally new.
There’s no waste as such, because there’s no opportunity for it.
And they never buy anything they don’t need. We, by contrast, throw
our money away on frivolous things, just because the price is low.”