Cuba….a historic, adventurous, vibrant, magical, nostalgic, brave, atmospheric island.
The historic revolution has left a socialist legacy of great free medical care and education as well as glimpses of a vibrant sensuous musical culture that I suspect could not have flourished under capitalism. Everyone might have been too busy.
The American embargo meant that a wide disparity in income levels has not been available to the Cuban people; in fact most people live mega modestly. But isn’t this equality part of what the Occupy movement is about?
A visual spin-off is that wonderful big fin 50’s cars roam the streets and ramshackle Grand architecture from the 1870’s to art deco abounds. In the country large old, open backed farm trucks act as buses and memories of the revolution resonate not just with the young people in their solidarity scarves but also in the numerous memorials, especially those to the five martyrs in American detention.
Embargos are relative though. Boatloads of one western luxury, a good Cuban cigar, seem to have no trouble evading customs.
How could ambivalence not pervade this island? Its very own revolutionary hero, the romantic and good Che, started his career in government reviewing appeals and firing squads for those convicted by the revolutionary tribunals as war criminals. The great Che ruled over capital punishment!!
Other discordant ambiguities – the USA has its dreaded Quantanamo Bay prison on the island, and we spent a few nights at a Cuban Resort which I have totally repressed. No locals of course; charter flights and chips.
But essentially it is politics, colour, nostalgia, time- warp, architecture, vitality….. a very large Afro Cuban woman oozing out of a short short skirt and a minimalist top with all the joy and confidence in the world; an impromptu jam session in the street that makes you think you have stumbled across the Buena Vista Social Club at home; a daiquiri on a steamy night with the sound of a saxophone in the distance.
Iconic Havana, the French settled Cienfuegos, world heritage Trinidad (although most of the country seems UNESCO heritage listed!), the musical and revolutionary Santiago de Cuba, Venales National Park. Ah! I could do it all again and again.