My Third Visit to Ciego de Avila, Cuba

Osmel Almaguer

Ciego de Avila
Ciego de Avila

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s province of Ciego de Avila seemed different from what I remember from my first trip during this, my third time in the city. People didn’t seem as civil to me. State Cuban-peso establishments, though still cheap, had lost in quality.

Could it be that, the first time, I let myself be carried away by its marked differences to Havana? Could it be the disenchantment of someone who looks at something for the third time and begins to find its defects? I don’t know. My view of the city has changed and that is enough for me.

I recall that, after my first visit, I extolled every positive detail I caught sight of: the cleanliness of its pedestrian boulevard, the civility of its people, the polite way in which institutions, companies and public officials carried themselves. Well, I no longer see things this way.

Ciego-de-Avila pedestrian boulevard
Ciego-de-Avila pedestrian boulevard

The city boulevard looks a little run-down and dirty. Certain people who sell their bodies (of and for all genders) have begun to appear around town, and I saw beggars lying on the street. Generally speaking, I saw incivility and discontent.

At the hotel we always stay in, for instance, one sensed a certain tension in the air during our first stay, as though any professional shortcoming or mistake could cost the employees an unpleasant reprimand. During my last visit, I saw some hotel employees sitting on park benches during working hours.

I shared these concerns with a man from Ciego de Avila and he said that was just my impression, that the city hasn’t changed. Another local, however, said it had, adding that it could have to do with changes in the provincial government.

I haven’t really had time to corroborate these changes. The fact is that Ciego de Avila had struck me as the country’s most organized and prosperous province. If she’s to be the yardstick with which we measure all others, then the change, the social decline we are suffering across the island, is even more noticeable.

One thought on “My Third Visit to Ciego de Avila, Cuba

  • Tell us more! You were just getting started when…your review came to an end. I spent 3 days there in Sept. 2012 and, like your first visit, really liked the town. I stayed at the Hotel Ciego de Avila, about a 20-minute walk from the center. The $23 CUC/noc price was right, especially for a room on an upper floor, overlooking Lago La Turbina, Parque de La Ciudad, and the rail-line on the opposite shore. I had the museums almost all to myself, including the Museo Provincial Simon Reyes with its unique scale model of La Trocha, the Museo de Artes Decorativos, etc. During the torrid hours between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., I hung out under a shaded bench in Parque Marti, Parque de La Ciudad or the Boulevar. I was rarely molested by jinatero/a’s. My visit coincided with the Wednesday afternoon danzones (of which I am an aficionado) at the Casa de la Cultura (on El Boulevar). Although the hotel restaurant was pretty aweful, the Fonda La Estrella (downtown, a block from Parque Marti) was a real discovery! For around $6 I had a wonderful meal with good service: salad, ropa vieja, Bucanero, accompanied by a soothing guitarist. I hope to return with my wife some day. Only negative: I was besieged by a pimp and his two girls while waiting for the rachon-style, house-boat restaurant on Lago Turbino to open–it never did–and had to flee back to the hotel!

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