Cuba: Quarantine or Tourism?

By Rosa Martinez

Up until just a couple days ago Cuba was trying to remain open for the tourist business. Photo: Prensa Latina

HAVANA TIMES – Diana and I are long-distance friends. We’ve been sharing our dreams, happiness and woes over instant messaging for about two years now.

Even though Diana is a US citizen through and through (with all of the good and bad things about living in the world’s greatest superpower), and I’m just a simple Cuban, from Oriente as well – Cuba’s poorest region -, we have more things in common than we could have imagined the first time we spoke to each other.

In spite of never wrapping our bodies in a physical embrace, we have found many other ways to do this, by offering each other support in tough times, by giving accurate advice and this confidentiality friends share, which only we women can understand.

She is in quarantine right now. Coronavirus is causing more harm than it should have in this huge nation, due to Trump and his Administration in the White House’s poor handling of the situation. They were too late in taking action; how can you when the president himself is calling it a small bout of the flu (this was his derogatory term for it): “Relax, relax, we have it totally under control.”

No US state has escaped this terrible disease. Up until now, there have been 38,792 confirmed cases and 401 deaths, however the government is preparing for a pandemic that could stretch out for a year and a half. Supplies are running out in hospitals and the number of people infected has multiplied by 40% in just 24 hours. Diana lives in the most powerful country in the world, but this country’s power hasn’t stopped this lethal virus from entering the country. The opposite, in fact, some people’s stupidity has helped its silent and rapid propagation.

I live on an island in the Caribbean which, in spite of the damage wreaked by the US blockade and all kinds of restrictions, it has found a way to build a quality Health System. Right now [Sunday March 22], we have 35 people sick here and 954 potential cases of the coronavirus. While our health system isn’t one of the worst health systems in the world, the shortages we’ve been experiencing for a long time now could be lethal if COVID-19 were to spread.

The government had chosen to keep our border open to tourism, in spite of the great risks this implies for the general population.

Governments make mistakes time and time again, and as always, it’s the people who pay the consequences who won’t have access to what they need if they get sick.

Diana and I only have one choice: to come together once more and pray for our families, our friends, our fellow countrymen, our peoples.

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Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

Rosa Martínez has 150 posts and counting. See all posts by Rosa Martínez

26 thoughts on “Cuba: Quarantine or Tourism?

  • Really Nick, If you had proof of what you are stating, show us the proof. I for one would back you 100% if you were able to show all of us undeniable proof of Cuban women being exploited in Canada.
    Having said that, without a doubt, some women in Canada are exploited, and the persons responsible for these heinous crimes should be jailed for life, no excuse, no bail.
    I do know Cuban men who have married Canadian women, and as soon as their feet touch Canadian soil, leave these women. In a country like Cuba, you have to expect a certain degree of manipulation on the part of Cubans who have very little.
    Having said that, I have been to Cuba 19 times and will return. I find them to be amongst the nicest people I have ever met. They have never tried to scam me, and have asked for nothing knowing I will be returning a few times a year. Canadians have a lot to learn about humility from the Cuban people. We love them and will return yearly as long as our health allows.

  • Canadian,
    Your comment is nonsense.
    It has no relevance at all to anything that I have written. I have not referred In any of my comments to any sexual exploitation in Canada.
    But bizarrely, you are implying that people from wealthy countries do not exploit people from poorer countries and even more bizarrely you are implying that sexual exploitation does not exist in Canada…..
    I think you may very well be in denial.

  • Nick, answer the woman’s question;

    Do you have actual knowledge of sexual abuse and exploitation by Canadian on a Cuban woman as you wrote above or were you just making up a story?

    I quote from you post;

    March 26, 2020 at 1:57 am

    “I have seen examples of this and heard of many more. For example I have known more than one case where a Cuban woman is invited abroad by a seemingly decent tourist only for the ‘tourist’ to exploit them in the most cruel way imaginable once the Cuban woman is in their country”.

    Sexual abuse, sexual assault or sexual exploration are all very, very serious crimes in Canada and carry long sentences in jail. Authorities here always treat any report of such nature with huge seriousness and priority.

    You should also know that anyone having seen such crimes or having knowledge of them is required by law to report them. Not doing so is criminal and you could potentially be charged for hiding those crimes and obstructing justice.

    This is a serious matter. You completely avoided this in your last response to Maria and wrote about something very different. I recommend you give a proper explanation here and either rescind your statement or provide a plan on how you’re going to report those crimes to authorities. I can assist you if your statement is true and so a serious need to report exists.

  • Maria,
    I’m find that your comment is a bit odd.
    I quite clearly said that Canada is one of my favourite countries and that I am not generalising about Canadians.
    It’s actually only fairly recently that Canadians have been visiting Cuba in such large numbers. I have never found Canadian visitors to Cuba to be generally any better or any worse than any other visitors to Cuba.
    People on here are saying that relatively wealthy tourists go to Cuba and get scammed.
    What I am saying is that yes, this does happen. But what I am also doing is stating the FACT that this is a two way process. Some people from wealthy countries scam and exploit those from poorer countries including Cuba. They have done so historically and they do so now.
    If you are saying that this is not the case then I’m afraid you are deluded.

  • Got ya scammer!
    That’s funny. I like that……..

  • !!! Nick I think you are out of your mind!!! Certainly you went too far with your statement that Canadian men invite Cuban women to Canada and proceed to abuse them in the most cruel way possible!!!

    If you have first hand knowledge about any such incidents you must contact the Police immediately. I don;t know about Cuba but here in Canada rape, sexual abuse or exploration is highly criminal. By not reporting any of those crimes and just boasting that ‘you know’ is criminal as well.

    Get a hold of yourself amigo and get back to your senses. You’re not fighting here for the honor of your country. It is just a message board. Pretty meaningless. No need to make up some fantastically shocking stories just so that you’re heard. Get a life!!

  • Let me take a sure bet guess here;

    Nick sounds to me like a Cuban boy without a doubt. Another scam? Yes, Sir!

    LOL!! Those Cubans!!! Search Results

    ? ?? ?

  • Canadians are also the biggest group by nation to visit Cuba and so from that point of view you might be right.

    I think the root of the problem lies in the fact that many Cuban women or men are interested in participating in sex tourism. That is the problem here. If the Cubans would not throw themselves at tourists at every opportunity the issue of sex tourism in Cuba would not exist. Note the history of prostitution in Cuba. It is long and rich. This issue always plagued Cuban society.

  • Canadians are amongst the biggest sex tourists in Cuba.

  • Correction:
    Stephen, You may be correct in saying that you are statistically LESS likely to get ripped off by a Canadian.

  • Stephen,
    You make some very valid points. But it seems that perhaps you are suggesting that I generalise about Canadians?
    if you are suggesting this, then you are not reading my comments accurately.
    You are correct to point out that there are mitigating factors behind a Cuban taxi driver overcharging or behind a bunch of other scams.
    If you or anyone else suggests that it is only foreigners who are scammed in Cuba then this is not at all correct. Cubans are also victims of Cuban scams but are generally wiser to the possibility that this can happen.
    However I know for an absolute fact that that many Cuban people simply would not rip other people off because it’s just not in their nature to do so.
    You may well be correct in saying that you are statistically likely to get ripped off by a Canadian. I have never conducted a survey on the matter (and I’m guessing that neither have you), but you may very well be right in your assertion. You are definitely correct to point out the mitigating factors behind your assertion.
    I have to say that over the past 25 years, I have seen with my own eyes, various examples of Canadians and other foreigners trying to exploit and scam the situation in Cuba to their own advantage. I have seen examples of this and heard of many more. For example I have known more than one case where a Cuban woman is invited abroad by a seemingly decent tourist only for the ‘tourist’ to exploit them in the most cruel way imaginable once the Cuban woman is in their country. Now where is the mitigation for this ?
    There are indeed, countless examples of people from the developed world trying to exploit people from less wealthy countries. This ‘rip off’ has been going on for centuries.
    I have seen many examples of foreigners (including Canadians) behaving unacceptably in Cuba, but I am not suggesting for a moment that this type of behaviour would be typical of a Canadian. If you are suggesting I have said this, then you have misunderstood.
    I previously lived in Canada, it’s amongst my favourite countries and I would not generalise about Canadians any more than I would about Cubans or any other nationality.

  • Yuma

    Its a unique Cuban name for a foreigner. Every Cuban understands it. A yuma is to ridden….or used….for the benefit of the Cuban and/or his/her friends and family.

    I have traveled to many countries, but nowhere have I been so consistently short changed, lied to, stolen from and scammed, as in Cuba.

    That being said…..I understand. Life is a challenge in Cuba.

    If I had to raise a family there, and suffer the abuses of communism, I would likely do the same thing. If the only way a person can help his/her family is to cheat a foreigner….for most people it is an easy decision…family comes first.

    I still love Cuba…the people and the culture. I go back regularly, and cope with the situation. I have experienced most of the scams, and am careful. But every once in a while, someone finds a new way to get me!

  • Generalizations as are written in this post solve or absolve absolutely nothing. One person generalizes Cubans are immoral; likewise, another poster states the same about Canadians. Is there one person right or more truthful than the other, of course not.

    To truly understand the position of each commentator one has to take a historical perspective to understand how a society, specifically the individuals in that society, operates today.

    Cubans for over 60 years have had to deal with the initial euphoria in their newly found Revolutionary way of society and acted accordingly. Cuban doctors, teachers, nurses, and ordinary citizens began helping one another some by going out to the countryside and helping illiterate people to read and write. Very commendable for a people for a society. Most Cubans had sufficient means to make a living and were extremely optimistic in their futures. They treated everyone with dignity and respect. Those that did not believe in the Revolution left.

    As time passed economic hardships began piling on. Ordinary Cubans began to feel the fact that their beloved Revolution now is not delivering the “goods” as once promised. Many have and are experiencing significant economic hardships simply to feed and clothe their families – like doctors, teachers, nurses and ordinary citizens.

    The government opened the closed economy to foreign tourists who have been flooding in from foreign lands, like Canada, bringing money and resources. To the ordinary Cubans these tourists are all “millionaires” who could afford to come down to enjoy Cuban culture and dole out dollars easily.

    So, for example, a tourist taking a CubaTaxi is overcharged therefore this individual states – using a Canadian cultural perspective: “I was ripped off”. And perhaps this happens a few times before the tourist wises up and negotiates the fare before entering the car. Nevertheless, the end result of the episode magnified countless times is exactly what a few commentators have generalized: All Cubans are liars, manipulators and stealers.

    From the perspective of the CubaTaxi driver, he earns a pittance wage, needs to feed himself, and family, clothe himself, and family with next to no money. If he can gain a few extra dollars by overcharging, according to him “millionaires” from foreign countries, to him he is not doing anything wrong. Any human being, Canadian or otherwise, in the same dire economic predicament as the CubaTaxi driver would do the exact same thing. It’s called survival; many Cubans are exactly in that state, unfortunately.

    A Cuban visitor coming to Canada will not encounter the same prejudice because the average Canadian is financially well off (Pandemic aside) and does need to overcharge a visitor because the Canadian has the financial means to pay for food and clothing.

    So, to generalize that a people (you name the nationality), collectively, are morally corrupt is to not fully understand their history, culture and aspirations of those people.

  • I totally agree. Even in the situation where most people have to do something illegal to survive.

  • Trumper
    You are deluded if you think all Cubans lie, manipulate and steal.
    I have spent a good deal of time in Cuba over the last quarter century.
    You are quite simply wrong in what you say. Some Cubans will do this. But you are categorically incorrect to say that all Cubans do this.
    You are as incorrect as your punctuation.

  • Nick;

    The issue at hand is that the Cuban society as a whole is completely rotten with manipulative behavior. We are not talking about single units behaving badly. We are talking about a way of life for the entire society which forces Cubans to lie, steal and manipulate just to get by. It is a horrible reality. It is a very sad reality. It is a disgraceful truth. That my amigo is what you should understand.

    I say this;
    Reality; Si!
    Stories; No!

  • Trumper,
    I have seen Canadians acting disgracefully in Canada.
    I have seen Canadians acting disgracefully in Cuba.
    But I don’t suggest that acting disgracefully is a fundamental Canadian character trait.
    Read with understanding buddy – It’s not even that complicated.

  • Dear Juan,
    Subject of Cubans and scams is very close to my heart. A Cuban man that I married destroyed my life. Not only mine as he went on a rampage as soon as he got his papers to join me in Japan. I’m a stewardess working for Aeromexico and used to love the Tokyo – Havana routes. It is a long story … so much more serious than few pencils for the 5cuc a taxi driver would overcharge. My advice; be careful with Cubans and never, ever marry one!

  • As a Cuban i feel it is important to be honest about the ways of my country. When the government pays you $25 a month you better do something else to feel yourself and your family. Legitimate ways of making money in Cuba are very limited and so the society has learned to compensate. Little lies, manipulations, theft and dishonesty is the daily reality. If Mr. X can take out few pencils from his office – he will. If a taxi guy can charge 5cuc more than he would normally charge – he will. If a tour guide can make up a story about sick mother needing expensive medication to his group of tourists – he will! Foreigners visiting Cuba are the easiest target. They are milked like cows after a day out on the fields. Some realize this and some don’t. There is a reason every Cuban asks if this is your first time visiting. This type of societal behavior is very normal for poor and underdeveloped countries. Some years ago Easter European countries had the same reputation. Cuban society has been unfortunately shaped this way for 60 years now!! It is sad.

  • Maybe you are too stupid to see that you’re being scammed and so you believe that you ‘wised up’. Read with understanding buddy … I did not say I was scammed over and over again. I said that Cubans scam as a daily routine. That does not mean I fall for it. Scams are daily bread for Cubans. Lies, stories and manipulations. Anything is fair game if it gets you ahead. That goes for all social classes. Understand or are you going to reply with a ‘story’ that has nothing to do with reality?

  • Trumper,
    I’m from the U.K.
    I have lived in both Canada and Cuba amongst other places.
    In the UK, Canada and Cuba and anywhere else I have ever been there are the good, the bad and the ugly. There are people willing to lend a helping hand and people and organisations trying to pull a scam.
    After a certain amount of life experience most people start to wise up. Meaning that they are less likely to fall prey to scams.
    By the way, I have seen Canadians in Cuba behaving in various disgraceful ways. But I wouldn’t suggest that their disgrace as individuals is a not typical Canadian trait.

  • Mr Trumper, I am so sorry you have had such bad experience with some Cubans. But certainly we all are not the same.
    I have a dear friend who was treated so badly in canada for several persons. And I would never say all Canadians are like that. I would be such a fool if I say so.
    The first scam you suffered it was the Cuban’s fault, the second it was yours. I am pretty sure it has to do with the people you gather with. It happens all over the planet, specially poor countries like Cuba.
    Good luck next time.

  • I’m a Canadian who has been going to Cuba for 15 years and 10 years of official business. I think I’ve faced every possible scam imagined by Cubans. My statements above stands and is 100% accurate.

  • I have no idea who this ‘Trumper’ individual is. Perhaps it is an individual who’s pseudonym is inspired by the current leader of the mighty USA ??
    The sad fact is that around one third of the population of the U.S.of A. is made up of sycophants that suck up to the liar-in-chief incumbent of the White House. This weird, orange coloured being which only lives and breathes due to it’s inheritance from the dollar rich father that spawned it.
    This wretched creature knowingly lurks somewhere on that filthy spectrum in between right wing conservatism and full-on, far right KKKism……
    Maybe our contributor ‘Trumper’ has no connection whatsoever to the humanoid stench that currently pervades in the White House…..
    But one way or another this ‘Trumper’ individual has managed to come up with a comment which stereotypes all Cuban people as inherently bad…..
    Shameful, low comment from this ‘Trumper’ …….
    I’m surprised that such a shameful, low and dirty comment would manage to slither its way past our erstwhile mediator ???

  • Cubans are one of the most manipulative societies on this planet. They have to be to survive. Still, that is not an excuse. I would not believe a single word uttered by a Cuban

  • I once had a long distance relationship with a European woman I never met and shared much intimate and confidential information with her about myself, my family and my relationship with my now husband.I came to realize she was giving me a lot of poor, mostly crazy advice, it took years to see the pattern, that nearly cost me my relationship with my husband.I now keep my family as my confidants now.

    Good luck

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