Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why Visiting CUBA ?

Cuba, a large Caribbean isle country under communist concept, is known for its white-sand seashores, moving hills, cigarettes and rum. Its vibrant capital, Havana, features well-preserved Language northeastern architecture within its 16th-century core, Old Havana, loomed over by the pre-revolutionary Capitol. Salsa emanates from the city's dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana.

There are impressive hilly scenery, wild and unspool valleys, capturing scenery of sugar stick, cigarettes farms radiant ruby against the vermilion earth of the areas, seven beautiful places dating from the mid-fifteenth century, an amazing variety of flora and fauna, some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and above all, Cuba’s greatest asset: her people. We are (though we say it ourselves) welcoming, enthusiastic, polite and a lot of fun - and that’s putting it mildly.

Stunning Spanish northeastern structure, wonderful white-sand seashores, hand-rolled cigarettes, classic cars, and those famous drinks (mojito, anyone?) wait for smart tourists to this unique island, the Caribbean's largest. American travel to Cuba was reintroduced in 2011—albeit by organized tour only—and highlights include strolling Old Havana's cobblestoned streets, dropping by Ernest Hemingway's countryside estate, and venturing out to darling Trinidad, a colorful UNESCO-protected town in the heart of Cuba. No matter where you go, you'll see vibrant local artwork and hear legendary jazz. What's more, uncrowded white-sand beaches are always close at hand.

As a strategy to boost Cuba’s bourgeoning tourist industry, this ploy appears to be working. Cuba saw a 14 per cent jump in the number of tourists visiting the island from January to May this year, no doubt partly attributable to the calls from travel magazines to head to the island before Starbucks and McDonalds pop up everywhere.

Aside from the police repression and intellectual wasteland (there is one newspaper and state television brooks no dissent) the Cuba I have experienced is one of dirt, scarcity and rampant prostitution.

It is the last of these which is the most galling. Cuba’s command economy is unable to provide a basic standard of living for its people, so in order to survive, most Cubans must find an income source to top up their state salary. For those fortunate enough to have relatives in the United States or Europe, help comes in the form of dollar remittances. For those less fortunate, the only way to make some extra cash or eat a decent meal can often be to sell their body to a – usually much older – European or Canadian tourist.

This reality hits you as soon as you step inside a restaurant or hotel in Havana. In every direction are girls who look no more than 16 accompanied by sagging and pale tourists approaching pension age. For at least some of these western tourists who flock to Cuba each year, the failure of communist economics has been the greatest boon to their sex lives since Sir Simon Campbell accidentally stumbled across the formula for Viagra. These decrepit lotharios often look like something the Caribbean Sea has puked up; but it hardly matters, for if you are a poor Cuban, all you see is the next meal (and if you are really lucky, marriage and a ticket off the island).

Arthur Koestler once referred to pro-Soviet communists in the rich world as voyeurs, peeping through a hole in the wall at history while not having to experience it themselves. The Stalin Society is a lot smaller today (though you can still find the Cuba Solidarity stall at Labour party conference) but the mindset persists: Cubans are the unwilling participants in a communist experiment, there mainly for affluent westerners to gawk at and, when the ‘chemistry’ is right (i.e. when you’ve paid for everything) to take back to the hotel room.


Of course, the resorts in Varadero that most tourists visit are about as ‘authentically’ Cuban as a Soho restaurant’s ‘authentically Chinese’ sweet-and-sour chicken. Step outside of the official tourist route and one soon sees the real Cuba. It is here, amidst the prostitutes and the elderly people rummaging through bins in central Havana, that one starts to understand why many Cubans might like a few branches of McDonalds in their country. Cheap plastic food is, after all, a good deal better than no food at all.