Impressions of Cuba
Impressions of Cuba
Old cars, cigars, mojitos, and brightly colored colonial buildings.
The crumbling streets full of life, bustling cafeterias that everyone converges on for breakfast and lunch, or the sound of pick up soccer games outside your window.
Cuba is utterly indescribable. The country is wholly bewildering, insanely gorgeous, and completely captivating. The Cuban people have taken us into their homes, showed us amazing hospitality, and offered a semi-snippet into Cuban culture.
It’s been hard for us to internalize Cuban way of life.
On one hand, you have the new influx of tourism and private enterprises that are completely changing people’s lives. In a country where the average monthly wage is $25 a month, renting rooms or converting your house to a restaurant is a great way to make much coveted extra money.
Cuba is a country that is still struggling to figure out a way to exist in the shadow a major world power completely blocking their economy from prosper. While they do have many successes, they also have extreme censorship, lack of internet access, and some questionable human rights practices.
We talked many times about the embargo, politics, and the future of Cuba while we were there. Not only did we talk about it amongst ourselves trying to piece together an opinion, but we spoke about it with the many Cuban people we met along the way.
There truly is no black and white answer. If the United States lifts the embargo, will it make Cuban life any better for the average citizen? There are people who think so. And most Cuban citizens are predictably in support of ending the embargo in the hopes of a better quality of life.
I’ll tell you what I do know.
The buildings and infrastructure of Cuba are struggling. What were once beautifully ornate buildings and glamourous architecture are now often times crumbling reminders of what once was.
Education is completely free. For as long as you would like to attend. Cuban literacy rate is one of the highest in the world. After you graduate though, you’re subjected to the same $25 wage that everyone else is.
Healthcare is also completely free. The Cuban government views it as a basic human right that should be afforded to all citizens. Long lines at clinics and lack of resources can be an issue though.
Poverty, while widespread, wasn’t what we have been accustomed to seeing in many other countries we’ve visited. It seemed that we saw less homelessness, less begging, and a less malnourished population as a whole. It seemed that while poor, Cuban people are better taken care of than many other countries.
While the government might subsidize many things for Cubans, shortages are common. We witnessed lines that stretched around corners for both food and appliance stores. Store shelves were often empty. And if a place had things like water one day, they might not have it the next.
The Cuban sense of community is so much stronger than what we’ve witnessed before. It’s seen as a neighborly duty to help someone in need. Even the barrio dogs there are well fed and taken care of.
Not once did we fear for our safety. Crime, especially violent crime, is extremely low. Even in the ghettos of Havana, we were never frightened that we would be mugged…or worse.
There is a strong support by many for the current government. We expected people to be outspoken, and vehement in their dislike. However, we met many people that were 100% in support for the Fidel brothers and thought of Che as a national hero.
There were also those that disagreed with what the government has done to the country. Most were frustrated with the lack of opportunity and access to the international community, and disappointed with the state of disarray of many of the countries resources.
I won’t pretend to know what the right answer is for the Cuban people in the political sphere. I believe that freedom of press and non-restricted internet access should be basic rights for all people. And I definitely believe that President Trump’s reinstatement of a inane travel ban is pointless.
I do know that we will return one day. Cuba, you have won our hearts.