Patria O Muerte – Cuba Rocks!!!

Note: Sorry for the massive delay in getting these pictures up online. We forgot our camera in cuba and it took months to get it sent back to the US.
Click here to view our photo album and read captions about Cuba!
http://picasaweb.google.com/tree3344/CubaTrip

For Valentine’s Day this year, Tree surprised me with a trip to Cuba, the number onedestination on my travel wish list. I was also crowned The Trip Leader for this mission, marking the biggest testament of trust from Tree that I have ever received. Anyone who knows Tree knows that this passing of the torch was a very special moment in our relationship.

We spent one week on the Caribbean island from March 18th(which also happened to be our 4-year anniversary) to the 26th. It was the most profound travel experience either of us has ever had. There are many contributing factors as to why we feel this way, and hopefully our photo album can help illustrate where my words fail.
For starters, Cuba is just so different from any other country. Its history, the people, the land, the revolution and its current plight are wonderfully unique. As a general rule of travel, Tree and I try to take off our cultural glasses so that we see with objective eyes. In this case it meant that we left behind our democratic and capitalistic ideas of wealth, poverty, freedom and efficiency, and simply tried to experience Cuba independent of the U.S. propaganda spewed about Castro’s communist nation.To give an example, one of the things we often heard about Cuba was how poor the country is. And it’s true, Cuba doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff. How could they? We have a trade embargo against them, but I have trouble calling a country with a literacy rate of 97% and an infant mortality rate slightly lower than that of the U.S. poor. ‘Poverty’ refers to the condition of not having the means to afford basic human needs such as clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. This doesn’t describe Cuba at all, but I know certain parts of Los Angeles that fit this definition perfectly.

Not to say that Cuba didn’t suffer greatly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the superpower that subsidized them for the first 30 years after the revolution. In order to stave off his own downward spiral and stimulate the economy, Castro began issuing licenses to families to rent out extra rooms to tourists. This limited experiment with free enterprise has turned out to be a win-win for everyone, especially us. As soon as we walked through the door of our Casa Particular, Vivian, our hostess, welcomed us with a huge

embrace. By the time we said our goodbyes a week later, we were all hugging, kissing, and crying in the street. We were family.

It is for this reason- for the passion, generosity, humor, creativity, and love of the Cuban people- that I think Cuba is the wealthiest country that I have ever been. But of course, don’t take our word for it. Go to Cuba!
STEVIE


Comments

  1. Looks like an amazing trip! I'm so glad you guys made it happen! Awesome!

  2. You two could be professional Travel Writers – your photos, insights and comments are always so thought-provoking and interesting! Thank you!

  3. Tree and Stevie,

    Love your blog, and I hope to get a Sprinter soon, and start the conversion process.

    Since you and I have been in both Ecuador and Cuba, I think it would surprise you to know that according to the World Bank and CIA Fact Book, both countries have about the same GDP. In Ecuador there are people who live quite well, earn handsomely and can progress if they work hard and smart.

    In Cuba all companies belong to the government, period. ( Yes, I know small business operators are now allowed) Someone I know developed a program that helped his Cuban firm generate more than $6 million (needless to say, not from US companies). He is paid quite well by Cuban standards. He makes $100 a month. That money doesn’t trickle down to the people.

    The Cuban government wants you to believe that the embargo is what’s hurting the country, when it’s really just them.

    • Hey Joe, thanks for commenting. I’m happy to hear that you are thinking of getting a Sprinter and converting it. You’re in for a magic ride 🙂

      As for Cuba, I agree with you. There is much left to be desired in its system of governance. At the same time, however, I do think that the embargo hurts the people of the country. And I recognize that there are some aspects of Cuba, like their healthcare and education system, that are laudable by international standards. In other words, I think that when considering systems of government, we need to be wary of having a myopic viewpoint. In the future, I would definitely like to see Cuba continue to allow more free enterprise. I imagine that a sui generis economic/political system that resembles some northern European nations in its hybrid of socialism and capitalism can work for Cuba as well. More than anything, though, I don’t want to see Cuba return to its state before the revolution, when it was a ruthless dictatorship run by Batista, a puppet for U.S. enterprise. Cuba has such a rich and unique culture that I’d like to see it flourish in whatever economic and political system it creates for itself. I definitely don’t want to start seeing McDonalds and Starbucks in Havana Vieja. In any case, the time is ripe for change, and I have faith that Cuba will choose right for itself. Despite the oppression of speech, many brilliant minds and passionate hearts abound on that tiny island.

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