When the “Yanks” Get to Cuba

Regina Cano

Waiting for tourists. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — “When the yanks get here, this and that…” a couple who are friends of mine were saying to me, ironically alluding to how life would change when more yumas (the generic word for foreigner on the island) began arriving in Cuba.

This phrase, folks, defines the expectations of some Cubans in the capital who are preparing for the arrival of the “yanks”, another source of hope that has been taking root on the island since the negotiations aimed at reestablishing relations between the United States and Cuba were announced.

In this connection, some are dreaming up plans that seem plausible and others not so much. These include:

– Traveling with greater ease in order to see relatives or visit the United States

– Investing in new business ventures (something that will benefit those who have a fair amount of capital to begin with)

– Learning or improving English, through lessons aimed at parents and children (and particularly the latter, as these language lessons are typically expensive). Parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s education and the country has seen an increase in the number of private tutors that people hire.

At a different level, some look at imminent developments and expect an improvement in the range of food products available in the country thanks to purchases from the United States (those cheap products, some of which kill you and some of which don’t). Everyone here has seen that the tendency is for product prices to go up. Apparently, no one can do anything about this, so, if the “yanks”, the Chinese or “new Russians” come over, we Cubans will likely spend the rest of our lives “getting the brunt of it”, or for the middle and long term, in the hopes of bringing about an economically dynamic Cuba.

Others insist that we must be confident the Cuban government will gradually reveal new measures that benefit us.

Yet others, on the contrary, feel that “no benefits are coming”, that poor people will always be poor (it sounds like the kind of thinking people had before the revolution, unchanged in more than 50 years), and that nothing proves this more eloquently than daily life.

Others know that all they have the right to now are dreams and let themselves be carried away by the dream they’ve nurtured for so many years (Americanized Cubans that they are), as their reality has nothing to do with that dream.

What’s more, no one believes in sharing everything anymore (that precept appears to have expired, like an old medication), or in the supposed return of egalitarianism, which has been proven not to work in practice.

Today, “struggling” may well experience a change in meaning and become synonymous with receiving training, learning new languages, and become better informed about what goes on in Cuba and abroad.

One can sense the uncertainty of individuals in different social groups in the capital. Some feel they should prepare themselves for what’s coming and that real and affordable access to the Internet is needed to keep abreast with the rest of the world (in terms of knowledge and up-to-date information).

Folks, it’s not that preparing for the time the “yanks” get here has become an obsession. This “awakening” had already started with the legislative reforms of recent years.

Besides, now that the news confirms that the Cuban Adjustment Act (the dry foot-wet foot clause, to be more specific) will not be repealed [at least for now], people can still cling to the hope that, if things go wrong, they can always take to sea and continue to flee the island.

By then, no one will be able to argue with any (of the pro-US majority) Cubans when they say, be it merrily or ironically, that the “yanks” are here.

22 thoughts on “When the “Yanks” Get to Cuba

  • Just got back from five day stay in Havana’s old town and have been reading all the
    comments from people who lived there or visited lots of times etc. I like most people who recently visited, wanted to see Havana before capitalism changed it, I’m of the opinion that apart from a facelift “repairing the streets, fixing up and restoring the beautiful houses and architecture which is badly needed and of course having a choice of food in shops” not much else will change. They are very proud people and
    they either don’t know they are poor or choose not to dwell on the fact, they would never stand for being called poor. One man I was talking to told me, that all Cubans
    know they need help and they don’t give a dam where it comes from China, Canada. UK or the USA. I said what about Russia? he scratched his chin and said “most of us don’t trust the Russian’s they let us down very badly once.

  • Rural Cuba is the same as it was years ago. I built two houses for Michel and Angelica in Niquero Granma and these houses are are now rented to family members. Total cost for marerial and labour $ 5000.00 each. My children have not been to Canada but have enjoyed over 20 different resorts and hotels. in Cuba.Medical care in Canada for non Canadians is very expensive – a visit to emergence in Port Alberni costs $ 950.00 – one night in ICU $ 10.500.00

  • I do not welcome Obama’s new Cuba policy. I am pointing out the rank hypocrisy and crass selfishness of those who had opposed the embargo because they pretended to care about the people of Cuba. Now that the embargo is about lifted, they whine about all the ugly Americans who will fill the tourist resorts they had previously enjoyed all to themselves.

    You take a different perspective than Michael & Analyzer, and your arguments have some merit. So I do not accuse you of hypocrisy or selfishness.

  • I am a realist. Besides, Tourism, until the embargo is lifted will remain somewhat stilted. Even after the embargo is lifted, until Cuba builds the physical infrastructure and develops a more tourist-friendly face, US spring breakers will stay in Cancun and Jamaica. Even the most optimistic analysts only predict an extra 1 million tourists from the US over the entire year. Cancun and the Mayan Riviera nearly do that in three weeks. Until political reforms, and by that I mean democracy, come to Cuba nothing will really change for the average Cuban.

  • Righteously referring to yourself as CubaKing says a lot… I agree that the Americans (and Canadians) on the West coast are different… No kidding for they are all smoking some of the best pot in the world… Though 87 visits to Cuba (on research…) And two Cuban kids… Have your kids ever been to Canada??? The kids down there are definitely raised a lot better than here.
    Unfortunately Canada has the Qubeckers and they are not liked too much in Cuba either… And the Italians in Guanabo are up there as well… Though it has been a few years now and I doubt I will return. My days of roughing it and wondering around Havana by myself taking photos are over after my last visit. Cuba was changing quickly. It just was not the same any more…
    Maybe a week an all-in in Cayo Santa Maria while it is still pristine… yes…

  • I don’t think there is a contradiction. The issue is self-determination. If the embargo was lifted and Cuba decided to go full-out to attract American tourism and turn the island into a huge Disney theme park that is their right. Hopefully it won’t happen but personally I won’t go there the day the first Starbucks opens. I make my choice – they make their choice. The way things are at the moment Cuba is being forced into a reliance on tourism as other trade is blocked.

    But it is strange that you and Moses who are such fans of the embargo are suddenly welcoming the slight removal of restrictions on tourism. If you were at all consistent in your views you would be pushing for Obama to restrict tourism even further and blocking all remittances.

  • You want the embargo lifted, but still keep the Americans out? How does that work? Are you even aware of the contradictions in your position?

    And you would prefer to keep the Cuban people poor and oppressed so that you can continue to enjoy your vacations on Yankee free beaches.

  • Since 1993 I have visited Cuba 87 times on research and have two Cuban – Canadian children that I chose to raise in Cuba. I live on the west coast of Canada and the Americans of California , Oregon , Washington and Alaska are very different than the Americans of southern Florida. The west coast Americans are very Canadian like and are very generous in their tips. I amm sure the resort workers will enjoy serving Americans from the west.
    Gordon ” CubaKing ” Robinson Port Alberni B.C. Canada
    [email protected]

  • Americans lead the world??? Try telling the rest of the world that one… And Mr Moses… I was actually being very polite on my opinions about America… and Americans. Generally… People are people. And idiots can be found mostly everywhere. Just some places have more idiots than in other places… And those are the places that I tend to avoid… Though no, honestly I do not care a real lot for your country and it’s foreign policies… And I really do not have to belittle American’s, for you guys do a well enough job of that on your own. And I also really doubt that Cuba will forget about 50 years of American goodwill overnight. And as well (thankfully) you do not know me, nor do you know just what my relationship with Cuba has been. And my motivation is to suggest that you have another enema… for you are full…

  • So what you are really saying is that you don’t give a hoot about Cuba, what you care about is seeing Americans belittled. I don’t care that you feel that way about Americans. We have been dealing with jealousy since our country began to lead the world. What sucks is that you take up space on planet earth pretending to care about Cuba when that was not your motivation at all.

  • Yes I actually loved the movie Scarface… A real Cuban success story…

  • I agree with the Analyser. The US will ruin Cuba (once again) And I have always been against the US embargo against Cuba. Though the real reason I went to Cuba was because it was free of the atypical Americans. It was just Cuba, and nothing else… Well one good thing is that the Cuban jails will fill up with Americans not respecting Cuba’s laws… That was always fun to watch on the beach in Playa Del Este.

  • Most of the poor people in Cuba will become even poorer once the Americans arrive in force. As it is right now most people in Cuba already have a tough time affording basic things. Do you believe for one minute that the prices of basic goods will go down??? Yes many things now that are hard to find in Cuba will become available once the embargo is fully lifted. Though if the people have not the money to purchase these items in the first place what difference will it make? In the tourist areas of Havana I see high end stores that I could not even afford to shop at, let alone most Cubans. And a Cristal is 2-5CUC Though walk a bit and it is back to the usual 1CUC. Just watch what happens once the Americans arrive… The prices will double to 4-10CUC for a Cristal… Miami prices… Yes as one poster put it. ‘As a Canadian our good times in Cuba are over’ As will the good times of the average Cuban who might have been able to find a cheap beer too. Anyways once the US arrives I doubt that I will ever go back… Cubanos, be careful of what you wish for…

  • Well, that just says it all!

    You have been calling for the end of the US embargo for years, and now that the US president has announced his intention to do just that, you are complaining about all the American tourists who will be ruining Cuba for you! It’s “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”.

    Clearly, you don’t really care about the Cuban people at all. It’s all about your personal enjoyment of the “Socialist Fantasy Island”. You want to keep Cuba locked up like some bizarre social experiment which you can drop in and visit from time to time, feel all “Revolutionary” and then go back to your comfortable home in a capitalist country.

    Are you even aware of your gob-smacking hypocrisy???

  • Think about what you are writing. You are lamenting the modernization and increase in quality of life as most people will perceive it. I consider it very selfish of you to see the possibility of my in-laws in Guantanamo having access to a lifestyle more convenient as “ruination”. If you want to live on some deserted island there are still a few left around the world. Please allow my Cuban family to live as comfortably as you do.

  • Poor people will exist regardless of which economic system one subscribes to. Cuba’s poverty level should improve once its system shifts to the center and as an admirer of those expatriates who have excelled beyond belief here in the US there’s hope. Hopefully those who left Cuba will return and bring this entrepreneurial fervor to your country. I personally know many of these folk and they are proud of their achievements but long to return to a more open country

  • John, what you want isn’t possible. However in this country everyone has the opportunity to open their own business or publish anything they want.

  • Apparently Thw Cuban gov doesn’t agree with you. Also the Cuban population does not agree with with you. Only two or three armchair Bolsheviks who post on this site see things your way.

  • Free enterprise capitalism has no kinder gentler version to offer Cuba which is presently state capitalist and which has more social benefits than free enterprise capitalism can offer .
    Absent a worker controlled…..from the bottom, by majority rule – economy , you will always have a totalitarian —from the top -no worker decision powers -economy.
    So yes, if the workers decide by majority rule how the surplus from their labor will be distributed and thereby control the money, they will control the country in a democratic fashion.
    If they go with/revert to U.S.- style feral capitalism or stick with the Leninist state capitalism they now have, it means the death of what might have been the first socialist society ( economy and government ) and the death of a chance for democracy in Cuba.
    The situation is in flux but it won’t take years to see how the country is going , which direction vis a vis democratic institutions .

  • Likewise, the ‘invasion’ will be the ruination of the Pearl of the Caribbean.
    This year is likely to be my last visit, (mores the pity).

  • Demand a TRUE FREE MARKET to head off American “CRONY Capitalist” imperialism, with one exception- Creation of MONEY must be kept in the hands of Cubans. NO sell-out to the Rothschild ( Western) banking system

    Who controls the money,controls the country

  • As a Canadian who has visited Cuba some eleven times since 1979, I can see benefits to the Cuban economy by the elimination of the embargo and that is much deserved. However I believe that the influx of miriads of Yanks from just across the water will end our days in Cuba.

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