Should the Cuban People Have the Right to Play Golf?

Isbel Diaz Torres

Fidel Castro's son  Antonio, is one of Cuba's biggest golf enthusiasts.
Fidel Castro’s son Antonio, is one of Cuba’s biggest golf enthusiasts.

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban golf has made international headlines again this October. On this occasion, we read rumors that the island may create a Cuban Golf Federation.

During a gathering held at the beginning of the month (probably very elegant and refined, as the “updating” of the revolutionary process demands), The Iberian Culture Day Golf Tournament was held under the auspices of the Spanish embassy in Havana.

According to the magazine OnCuba, the vice-chair of the Cuban National Sports and Recreation Institute (INDER), Gladys Becquer, attended the gathering, and Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, the enthusiastic golfer and son of former President Fidel Castro, was among the VIP guests.

In the words of Juan Francisco Montalban Carrasco, Spanish ambassador to Havana, the son of the former leader is “yet another Cuban golf enthusiast.” Let us not forget that, in addition to race cars and exotic vacations, Castro has a keen taste for golf. In Varadero, he won the Esencia Cup during the 2012 Montecristo Cup tournament.

Antonio is one of 65 competitors from 11 different countries who signed up for the 14th Iberian Culture Day Tournament this year.

Different press agencies report that representatives of the US Professional Golfers Association, such as Rich Beem and Gary L. Schaal (who has been an industry leader for more than 30 years) also attended the function.

The president of the Spanish Golf Federation, Gonzaga Escauriaza, and the head of the newly reopened US Embassy in Havana, Jeff DeLaurentis, were also in attendance.

According to international press agencies, the vice-chair of Cuba’s sports institution did not offer any details about the creation of a national golf federation or about the candidates being considered for its leadership. “That’s being assessed at the moment,” she replied.

What seems certain is that the old slogan which proclaimed sports as a “people’s right” is being left out of these new plans to implement the Guidelines of the Cuban Communist Party.

There will always be those who say I am opposed to progress. This is understandable. But I won’t cease to express my dismay at seeing how the effort to make sports a popular right – an activity free from the vulgar professional mechanisms where money and personal glory reign supreme – is being betrayed.

Perhaps the government never took this effort seriously in the first place, but that’s quite simply their problem.

To top things off, they aren’t satisfied with exporting team and individual sports that are part of our country’s traditions, and insist on importing one that is intrinsically destructive of the environment and foreign to our culture, a sport that is reserved for a wealthy elite (which, in Cuba, is intertwined with political and military cliques).

An 18-hole golf course consumes about 1.5 million liters of water a day. Can you imagine what that would mean for an island like Cuba?

According to the book Cuba: “Impact of Climate Change and Adaptive Measures”, rainfall will continue to diminish towards the island’s eastern regions and draughts will become more common, intense and protracted. Coupled with high rates of evaporation, this will contribute to the deterioration of soils and the dwindling of water reserves.

The intense and prolonged draught has hit Cuba’s south-eastern regions most severely. Since 2012, scant rainfall has increasingly led to the partial or total exhaustion of more than 350 sources of water in the region.

Closer to the island’s center, 90% of the province of Cienfuegos has suffered the consequences of scant precipitation since November of 2014, a situation which persisted until April of this year. All the while, Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism is developing nine golf courses there, with over 22,400 hotel rooms around it.

Cuba’s west has not lagged behind and has presented record high temperatures and water shortages. There, they have already announced the construction of several golf courses within the Ganahacabibes Biosphere Reserve. This is a place, incidentally, that Cubans are not allowed to access.

Little by little, without consulting the public (and sometimes not even the experts), making it impossible to effectively oppose any of these measures, the Cuban government moves forward in its self-preservation efforts, no matter what the costs.

If it has to hand over its culture and natural resources on a silver platter to achieve this, these will quite simply become collateral damage that the powerful can bemoan, while gracefully swinging their golf clubs and drinking a refreshing mojito.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

12 thoughts on “Should the Cuban People Have the Right to Play Golf?

  • October 27, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    That’s just it. The Castro dogma hasn’t changed. The only thing that has changed is the availability of the Soviet and Venezuelan teat to support their bullsh*t. Antonio Castro continues to rail against capitalism all the while racing Ferraris, wearing Rolex watches and winning golf tournaments. Your American people analogy falls short. The same racist people who would have made it impossible for Obama to have been elected President 50 years ago are today outnumbered by non-racists. In Cuba, the same Castros who bulldozed golf courses 50 years ago still rule the regime.

  • October 27, 2015 at 9:39 am

    If you follow that line of argument then the American people are hypocritical for electing a black president. People have a right to change their minds and their policies in a world which is very different from 50 years ago. You would be the first to criticize them for sticking to outdated dogma.

  • October 25, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    It would appear that these resorts are modeled after other high profile resorts where golf courses are a gim’me (excuse the pun.) But you don’t have to have golf courses. Municipal courses in the US, where locals play, are notorious for their lack of grass. So Cubans could have that too without too much water usage. In California courses are replacing grass with DG (decomposed granite.) So the resorts are for tourism. This is a classic Caribbean problem. Without manufacturing or other service sector work then tourism is a huge potential resource. Alaska is wrestling with this now as Shell Oil just stopped the last drilling project in the state. Alaska is now projecting huge budget shortfalls. Well golf courses are not needed for the huge tourism business in Alaska and tourism is huge there. I think Cuba can draw fabulous numbers without the golf courses too. So if the water is an issue it will quickly result in the courses getti…ehhh, well (?!?) maybe yes and maybe no. I see the problem. But either way golf is not simply a rich guy thing. Mostly crazy people play and there is no accounting for them anyway. (sorry about that pun too.)

  • October 25, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Well that sure doesn’t sit well with those who are barely able to feed their families. Another reason why the internet is the most dangerous technology the Castro regime must fear the most.

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