Cuba’s Authenticity Lies in Cubans

By Isabella Zampetaki, Travel Writer

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HAVANA TIMES — For over a decade, I had been listening to fellow Greeks rave about their exotic vacation in Cuba. “People are so happy in spite of their poverty. They sing and dance everywhere, even in the streets” was what most had to say, showing off photos to prove it. Vintage cars, cigars rolled on female workers’ thighs, a paid swim with dolphins at Varadero, separate queues and services for tourists completed the picture.

What other Greeks liked about Cuba was, to me, a validation of my preference for Mexico: a country where speaking Spanish was all that it takes to be able to experience the non touristy, genuine flavor of life in the tropics.

20160504_121443However, the fact that Cuba is on the threshold of change, as well as a growing fondness for Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s dirty realism forced me to reconsider. On a snowy February morning, I booked my pricey air ticket to Havana and waited impatiently until spring to find out if the “happy in spite of everything” stereotype held true. I even thought of conducting a series of street interviews with ordinary folk, asking them to share their wisdom about happiness with Greeks, a nation painfully experiencing what it means to become poorer every day.

What I discovered was quite different from what I had in mind but, isn’t this one of the greatest charms of travelling?

If I were to describe Cubans, the first adjectives that come to mind would be: proud, open and inventive, an extremely smart people who look deep into your eyes. I guess this is the way in which the human species evolves in order to survive under tough, not to mention surreal, conditions and restrictions.

20160502_193433During my 10-day stay in Havana, I had the pleasure of long, sincere conversations with several Cubans.

The American and Canadian flags decorating the taxi I rode after landing at the Jose Marti airport triggered the inevitable question: “How do you feel about Obama and all? Will things change in Cuba?”

“I don’t have time to think about Obama. I am too busy working and studying French,” replied the proud Afro Cuban driver with disdain, keeping his eyes on the wheel. “Julio Iglesias said it best: ‘la vida sigue igual’ (life remains the same)” he added, allowing a faint smile to soften the prevailing bitterness.

Later that night, Alain, a photographer and tour guide, took me to a trendy alternative bar in the derelict streets behind the Capitolio. Commenting on the surge of tourism in Havana he noted: “The Americans are already here. And they need me!” The gleam in his eyes was enchanting. It is reassuring to see that talented professionals do actually have work prospects that allow them to be optimistic to the extent of even dreaming of buying their own flat one day.

Things were not the same for Juan, the shoe factory worker who accompanied me on a long walk around Old Havana and also waited with me in an hour-long queue at the bank.

20160503_195451“How do you feel about all this waiting for everything?” I asked him. “Esperando te desespera” (waiting is infuriating) he replied with a smile sweeter than that of an infant. Perhaps his flirting with me was part of his human defense mechanism against the several less pleasant aspects of daily survival. Juan makes around 17 CUC (equivalent to the US dollar) a month and has lost two ex-wives to foreigners, yet his Zen attitude makes him one of the most inviting personalities I have ever met.

Doña Juanita, on the other hand, was a most proud Cuban and I had the privilege of watching the May Day Parade on TV at her side.

“Is it true that people are forced to take part in the parade?” I asked her while savoring the miraculous chicken and malanga soup with which she cured my ailing stomach.

20160503_152629“What a lie!” she replied with passion that I would not expect from such a caring, grandmotherly figure. “People are proud of the Revolution. There still would be no school in the small village where I grew up if it weren’t for the Revolution!”

Strength regained, I continued on my quest to discover less touristy places and experiences around Havana. Yasser, the careful driver who made me feel secure despite the lack of seatbelts in Cuban cars, drove me to towns like Santa Maria del Rosario and Jaimanitas. However, the authenticity that I originally sought in places, I actually found in his stories about life in Cuba and in his smile; which was happy and sad at the same time. Likewise, in our silence as we stood mesmerized by the rosy-red reflection of the setting sun on the Malecon’s dark seawall. Havana, behind us, was laying naked and dirty; but also inexplicably beautiful.

There were, of course, those other Cubans, too. The girls who befriended you in a second to sell you overpriced cigars at the “only for today” sale at the cooperative. The collective taxi drivers who insisted on being paid 10 CUC for a ride that should cost 10 regular pesos (less than half a CUC) – some of them, waving a thick bunch of paper money as they drove.

What bothered me more than hungry taxi drivers and the whole circus of “tiburones” (sharks) was the fact that most official tourist services in Cuba are pricey and of questionable value for the money. This, combined with the fact that tourists are subject to different prices than Cubans, creates an unpleasant segregation –extremely annoying to the traveler who seeks an authentic experience.

20160501_194551I happened to leave Havana on a flight full of gorgeous Coco Chanel models but, from the moment I boarded the plane, it felt as if the intensity of hues in everything from clothes to people’s gestures was automatically turned down several notches.

A week later in Athens, everyday life does not feel as intense or genuine as it did in Havana. Cubans may be deprived of many things but they are uncanninly beautiful. Maybe it is to be attributed to the fact that they are survivors.

As I share my Cuban experience with family and friends, I silently realize that this has been the most defining journey I have made so far.

However, I do not think that I will stop recommending Mexico over Cuba to those seeking advice for their next destination. I am saving Cuba for those few who will take the time and interest to really look at Cubans, deeply and sincerely.


43 thoughts on “Cuba’s Authenticity Lies in Cubans

  • May 22, 2016 at 11:21 pm
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    I NOTICE THAT RICH HANEY HAS TWICE NOT RESPONDED TO THE QUESTION WHETHER HE SUPPORTS DICTATORSHIP BY THE LEFT?

  • May 19, 2016 at 6:16 pm
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    The gorge I mentioned is the Samaria Gorge with the “Iron Gates” as the defile is known

  • May 19, 2016 at 6:14 pm
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    Do you support dictatorships by the left? Do you support the Castros dictatorship? It appears that amelrodriguez has correctly assessed your problem being “your lack of reasons and education.”

  • May 19, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    A few words from Palestinian comedian Amer Zahr.
    ” When Trump supporters say: ‘You should go back to your country!’ I say: ‘I’ve been trying for 67 years.’ “

  • May 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm
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    Firstly Isabella, thank you for the courtesy of replying to those who read and commented upon your article. I have to confess that in my visits to Greece, I have spent time on Crete ( including walking that wonderful gorge, at 16 km. the longest in Europe), Rhodes and a total of ten of the smaller islands to as far north as Patmos. In total my time there comes to some eight and a half weeks.
    The Greeks were delightful and hospitable with some in poverty. I recall an old man living in a small hut on Crete whose proudest possession was a ‘photo of his long ago father in national dress. I took a photograph of him holding it and later sent enlarged copy of it to him.
    Although not a Cuban, my wife her extended family and our home are there. Not in Havana which resembles Cuba as much as Athens resembles Greece – full of tourists and Old Havana being the beneficiary of much capital investment by UNESCO – the supposedly wicked US being the largest contributor. I recall back in 1946/7, collecting money for the starving children of Greece. I say that because many of the mothers in Cuba struggle to feed their children. Cuba similarly to Greece, isn’t just tourist resorts. We live in a substantial city, but there is not a single tourist in sight – I am the sole foreigner. So if and when you read my observations in these pages, know that I am reflecting Cubans, not the Castro family communist dictatorship.
    Thank you again for responding!

  • May 18, 2016 at 3:24 pm
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    Whereas I have previously briefly reviewed my experience in visiting the West Bank and Israel, I am not in favour of the construction of houses upon Arab land on the West Bank. My memory is that some three years agoi I wrote in these pages of my view that the US Government could prevent further construction by telling Israel that for every house built on the West Bank they (the US Government) would reduce their financial support for Israel by $1 million per year every year.
    Regarding ‘occupation’ Israel has a right to exist under UN Charter. So the word occupation does not apply to that portion of the globe. Occupation of the West Bank is a consequence of war. But, just as the allies terminated occupation of West Germany ten years after the end of hostilities (actually ten years and two months, returning sovereignty to Germany, it would make sense for a similar action for the West Bank. But, equally, the Palestinians would have to recognize Israel’s right to exist and cease all forms of dissent usually termed terrorism.
    My view remains that Arafat should have signed the Camp David Agreement as it represented a reasonable (although like all political agreements imperfect) compromise. Sadly he didn’t and wouldn’t.
    I unlike you Ken, do not equate occupation with dictatorship:
    “occupation: the action, state, or period of occupying or being occupied by military force”
    “dictatorship: government by a dictator”
    “dictator: ruler withtotal power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force”
    “dictatorship government
    The West Bank has its own government, not a dictator, but is occupied with much construction upon its territory by the occupying force.
    Hope that clarifies my view – but I accept that you may not like it.

  • May 18, 2016 at 3:21 pm
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    Again Haney, you cannot find criticism by me of the people of Cuba within these pages. Yes I detest the dictatorship imposed upon the people of Cuba by the Castro family communist regime. But don’t make the mistake of equating the people of Cuba – and when I refer to Cuba, it is they whom I speak of, with the
    Castro regime.
    Can you really be silly enough to think that I would apply my criticisms of the Castro regime to my wife, family and friends as Cubans. Remember my home is in Cuba. I speak and write based upon experience of daily life in Cuba. How about you?
    You are correct in speaking of Cubans as being perceived as ‘weaker’. They are weaker against the overewhelming power and control of dictatorship, just as the people of Chile were weaker than the dictator Pinochet. Fortunately the people of Chile escaped from that dictatorship – the people of Cuba have been unable to so do!
    One straight question as you claim to be in “the open”. Do you condemn all forms of dictatorship? I do!
    I have some hope that you will reply “yes”, but wonder whether it is within your moral capacity to condemn dictatorship by the ‘left’ as in Cuba.

  • May 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm
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    I suppose that the livestock diseases in Cuba were started by the same evil people who
    introduced Mad Cow Disease into the UK? It is obviously impossible for the incompetence of the Castro family regime to have any responsibility for diseases in livestock in Cuba.
    But, Chuck 1938 its good to know that the constant shortage of potatoes – a South American origin crop – is the consequence of wicked imperialist bioterrorism, because I had thought until you enlightened us that it was a consequence of the aforementioned incompetence in seed potato production, the antiquated methods of crop production and the disorganized system of distribution.
    I had thought that the reduction in citrus production was a consequence of failure to establish new younger trees to replace those planted prior to the revolution. But presumably the Jewish company in Tel-Aviv, Israel which markets Cuba’s ever diminishing supply is aware of the bioterroism that you hold responsible. I recall an older Cuban veterinarian telling me of when he was a boy it was possible to purchase large quantities of oranges from vendors on the streets of the towns but oranges are seldom to be found now.
    Time for General Alejandro Castro Espin and the resources of MININT to be put to work tracing this bioterrorism and those responsible – he could for example put ‘The Five’ back to work.
    I had not realized that the reduction of sugar production to 15% of the 1990 figure was a consequence of bioterrorism. It must be that which caused the regime to close down so many of the sugar plants and even import some sugar.
    Maybe the bioterrorists introduced a virus into the oxen used to plough the land at Vinales for tobacco production. They obviously will stop at nothing!
    Do you know whether it is the same people who have infected the mosquitoes with virus of Denge and Zika? It is obviously a plot!

  • May 18, 2016 at 2:38 pm
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    This 1 May Day was in Sunday., no labor day. There are no bonus and nothing if you participated or not at parade (never) But the better example is: come in and see!!

  • May 18, 2016 at 12:35 pm
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    Most Palestinians live under the dictatorships of Fatah or Hamas, or in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab dictatorships. Ironically, the Palestinians living in Israel have more rights & freedoms than any other Arabs in the Middle East.

  • May 18, 2016 at 9:23 am
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    Give me some evidence that i am wrong. Insults only illustrate your lack of reasons and education.

  • May 18, 2016 at 8:54 am
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    Carlyle says, “I repeat my invitation for you to give a single example of my supporting any form of dictatorship whether by the the right or by the left of the political spectrum.”
    Large numbers of Palestinians live under Israeli military occupation. I would describe that as dictatorship. From your comments it appears that you are in sympathy with the occupation.

  • May 18, 2016 at 3:08 am
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    You are a bully, Carlyle. I’ve been out in “the open” all my life, and unafraid of bullies who thrive on intimidation and overpowering those perceived as weaker, such as everyday Cubans. Your assaults on Cuba are assaults on America. I disagree with what happened to Cubana Flight 455 and that’s why I disagree with you. You are the one who needs a hole to crawl into.

  • May 17, 2016 at 8:51 pm
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    No one needs to white-wash Cuba’s government long list of failures, mistakes and wrongdoings, but for born again Cubanologist Moses to say, that the United States has nothing to do with failures in cattle, agriculture and more, is a such a monumental lie.

    Is Mr. Moses aware of the African Swine Fever bioterrorism attack on Cuba in 1971 and 1974 which demanded half a million pigs to be slaughtered?
    Have Moses ever heard about the highly infectious Mucosal Disease and Icterohemorragic Disease in Cattle or how it got into Cuba?

    How about bioterrorism fungus attacks on the potato, tabbacco, sugarcane and citrus plantations?

    Which other country except Cuba could have resisted 50 years of an incessant financial, economical and demonization war of attrition?

    You may even try to deny what follows and more, but others know better.
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/america-s-war-on-terrorism-against-cuba/21181

  • May 17, 2016 at 5:57 pm
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    Get back into the gutter where you belong!
    I am surprised that even the most ardent supporters in these pages, of the Castro regime would wish to be associated with your baseless lies and innuendo!
    Creep out into the open and experience the light of day. It is possible for civilized people to disagree with each other without sinking to your pitiful level.
    The level of debate and discussion in Havana Times can only deteriorate with your presence. Either substantiate your statements or crawl back under your log.
    I repeat my invitation for you to give a single example of my supporting any form of dictatorship whether by the the right or by the left of the political spectrum. Secondly, you know naught of me, you do not know my history but determine to compare me to that despicable US politician – elected by you and your fellow Americans.
    My concerns are and continue to be for the people of Cuba. Yours somewhat obviously are to vent your spleen upon others, perhaps because you feel that life hasn’t given you what you feel is your due, or that others who know you no longer wish to be associated with you and so you of necessity have to impose your pathetic personality upon those reading these pages.
    I can only regard you with disgust!

  • May 17, 2016 at 2:27 pm
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    Don’t be so naïve. Flying back and forth to Cuba is not the access that I’m talking about. Collecting anecdotal information from the man on the street in Havana is nearly worthless as Cubans are so poorly informed of what really goes on in Cuba. When Raul starts having daily press briefings the way Obama and every other US administration does, your comment will make sense.

  • May 17, 2016 at 1:51 pm
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    Then we shall agree to disagree. I would ask you to consider what effect the US embargo has on dairy production. Cows eat and then cows produce milk. Somehow the Castros still manage to f#ck that up too.

  • May 17, 2016 at 10:41 am
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    Mr. Haney you continue to lie and make sly innuendo regarding my views about Cuba. I challenge you to provide one single example of my expressing approval of the Batista dictatorship or of the US Mafia. If you can’t then stop insulting me and pursuing your socialist policy of promoting disinformation. Can you also explain why I would wish to impose a Batista like dictatorship or the parasitic US Mafia upon my family, relations and friends, when what I seek for them is freedom from the current dictatorship and opportunity to live in a society with freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and freedom to vote within a multi-party political system.
    Instead, why don’t you openly declare that it is you who admire and seek to retain the current dictatorship in Cuba. You now have the opportunity to deny that and to express your views about whether Cubans should have the freedoms I have described or not. It is so easy to favour dictatorship for others whilst skulking under the protection of the free world – but you don;t seek it for yourself – do you?
    Go on – have some courage of your convictions – declare your admiration of dictatorship providing it is socialist/ communist in nature. Have courage and declare your admiration for the Kims in North Korea, for the Asads in Syria, for the late Ghadafi family in Libya and the Castros in Cuba.

  • May 17, 2016 at 9:59 am
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    I beg to differ. Through your government’s policies intent on drastically limiting Cuba’s ability to effectively interface economically with the rest of the world, and especially with the US, it’s your government that is hampering Cuba’s ability to prosper economically… regardless of the Cuban government’s political aspirations, inefficiencies, and and/or lack of managerial expertise.

  • May 17, 2016 at 4:19 am
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    Tell your crap to Cristina Escobar.

  • May 17, 2016 at 4:16 am
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    Moses, USA Today’s main writer on Cuba is Alan Gomez, an anti-Castro Cuban American in Miami. He flies back and forth almost weekly to typically gather anti-Cuba data. All you know is “NO” regarding Cuba and your NO’S are absurb didtortions.

  • May 17, 2016 at 4:08 am
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    You, Carlyle, are a gutless Joe McCarthy-type liar to say I “detest” my country because I don’t like your Cubana Flight 455-type democracy, which I think has smeared my country’s image long enough. I think innocent Cubans should not be persecuted in America’s name, even if it’s the product of the Banana Republic portion on U. S. soil that fled Cuba to hide behind the skirts of the U. S. government and spend five decades hurting grenades at the island.

  • May 17, 2016 at 3:52 am
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    You always distort any credibility you may have by assuming others are so stupid or so blind as to readily join you in yearning for a return of the Batistianos and Mafiosi to Cuba. That’s why, I reckon, you compare Castro to Mother Teresa or Abe Lincoln, not the thieves and murderers that preceded him.

  • May 16, 2016 at 4:34 pm
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    Sorry Carlyle, I didn’t mean to lump you in with the hypocrites. I know your position regarding America’s continuing interventionist policies parallels mine.

  • May 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm
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    My country is one of the only two in the Western hemisphere that has given continuous diplomatic recognition to Cuba since the revolution. My country under a Conservative government voted against the continuation of the embargo. i speak of the realities of Cuba as my home is there, most members of my family are Cubans living in Cuba. What is the basis for your views other than the evident detestation of your own country?
    Granma is the official organ of the PCC, no free press is permitted.

  • May 16, 2016 at 1:49 pm
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    Thanks for excluding me Terry.

  • May 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm
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    You cannot find any example of my favouring the embargo. You can correctly find my quoting directly from the US CDA. My view is and remains that the declared purpose of the Act was sound, but that having failed in its objective – that of removal of the Castro dictatorship and introduction of freedom of speech, freedom of the media and free multi-party elections, the US should have reviewed its policy as the Embargo was and still is, being used as an excuse for the inadequacies of the Castro regime and the PCC. Which of the objectives of the embargo do you oppose? Is it removal of the Castro dictatorship – perhaps you approve dictators, or free elections, of freedom of speech or freedom of expression? Don’t be coy and shelter behind lies and innuendo, tell us all whether you favour others having the current oppression enforced upon them. In short be honest and quit lying!

  • May 16, 2016 at 11:40 am
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    Rich, I couldn’t have said it better myself. It amazes me that on one hand you have those who never miss a chance to lay all blame at the Castro’s feet… while on the other hand they possess full knowledge that their own government is still supporting policies that are directly responsible for Cuba’s economic stagnation that affects only the Cuban people, and not their government as fully intended. Hypocrisy on the grandest scale.

  • May 16, 2016 at 8:12 am
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    I believe that your article is an honest reflection of your limited experiences in Cuba. Over time, Cuban resignation bordering on withdrawal becomes more apparent to the visiting outsider. Disenchantment us often not spoken about openly but instead manifests itself as indifference. Many of these commenters who support the Castros, have never lived in Cuba. Some have never even visited. Even those few who are natural-born Cubans left the island many years ago for a comfortable life elsewhere. Your article also reflects a common mistake made by many of the island’s visitors. It seems that you are comparing the best of Cuban situations with the worst of your own Greek experiences and those experiences you have collected in Mexico. A far more balanced comparison is to compare the best of Greece or Mexico with the best in Cuba.

  • May 16, 2016 at 7:59 am
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    Here are the missing links: Are US journalists given the same access in Havana that Escobar was given in Washington? Does Granma publish criticisms of the Castros? The clear answer to both questions is a resounding NO.

  • May 16, 2016 at 7:51 am
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    My “anti-CASTRO” comments reflect the experiences of my friends and family in Cuba. It is not inconsistent for Cubans to be proud of the Cuban revolution and yet opposed to the Castro dictatorship. The Castros have failed to “restore prosperity to Cuba” because of the failures inherent in socialism. US intervention has little to do with animal husbandry, sugarcane farming, beer production and a variety of other government disasters in Cuba. These activities have failed due to Castro mismanagement.

  • May 16, 2016 at 7:07 am
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    “Cuban journalists have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalist have to tell the truth about Cuba.”

    You have made laugh really hard because it reminded my of a Cuban joke.

    Yes, Cuban journalist are allowed to tell all kinds all things about the US, as long as they are bad to the US. I challenge you to find one article saying any good thing about the US. On the other hand, they are not allowed say anything really critical of the Cuban system. They can criticize low ranking nameless “bureaucrats” or other individuals, but the system, the PCC and overall the “históricos” (the Castros and their cronies), are out of bounds. WE say “You can play with the chain but cannot touch the monkey”.

    Recently, there were videos on the web of Antonio Castro, one of Fidel’s sons, travelling the Mediterranean in a yacht and renting rooms in one of the most expensive hotels in Turkey with a retinue of people, and of bodyguards trying to scare of the one making the video. It was a trending topic among Cuban exiles. Where was all that money coming from? He is a medical doctor, and doctors in Cuba earn some $45 US a month. The official media in Cuba, including your star journalist Ms. Escobar did no say a word. She might be very incisive with American officials. ave you seen her doing the same to Cuban officials? I bet you haven’t.

    That gives something to think about, doesn’t it?

    There is no freedom of press or expression in Cuba. All media belongs to the government, all main articles are exactly the same to the commas, and no dissenting opinion is allowed.

  • May 16, 2016 at 5:09 am
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    “Free open discussion is unknown to the Cuban population.” That is a lie from someone who believes that the Cuban narrative in the U. S. is totally and only controlled by propagandists. Cuba’s main newspaper, Granma, publishes letters highly critical of the government. Cuba’s main television news program, the Round Table, has interviewed anti-Castro guests without rebuking what they say. Cristina Escobar, the 28-year-old talented Cuban broadcast journalist, got plaudits from NBC veteran Andria Mitchell when Escobar, in Washington to cover the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomat session, famously said, “Cuban journalists have more freedom to tell the truth about the U. S. than U. S. journalist have to tell the truth about Cuba.” Escobar in Washington made headlines at the White House news conference hosted by Josh Earnest in which she blistered him with six questions. In later interviews Escobar was widely quoted and shown on videos saying, “The lies the U. S. media tells about Cuba hurts everyday Cubans the most.” You can Google her quotes from her celebrated Washington visit or you can go to YouTube and see her in action, especially the two videos — one 3-plus minutes and the other 15-plus minutes — in which respected U. S. journalist Tracey Eaton interviewed her in Cuba. In both those YouTube videos you can see and you can hear the young and brilliant Ms. Escobar say, “I don’t want the U. S. to bring me democracy. That is a project for Cubans on the island.”
    Now, Carlyle MacDuff, tell us why Ms. Escobar should trust people like you in a foreign, hostile country to bring her democracy. Might it resemble the arrival of the Mafia in 1952? Most unbiased people, I think, can understand why, when democracy arrives triumphantly in Cuba, she trusts Cubans on the island, not self-serving foreign usurpers, to bring it to her.

  • May 16, 2016 at 4:45 am
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    For propagandists like Carlyle MacDuff to suggest repeatedly that such Batistiano-Jorge-mas-Canoso-directed U. S. laws — including MacDuff’s beloved “US Cuban Democracy Act” — was designed and is succeeding in hurting Castro but in no way harming everyday Cubans is a blatant lie that, apparently, Mr. MacDuff assumes idiots will accept. According to declassified U. S. documents available at the GWU-based U.S. National Archive, the embargo that has existed from the early 1960s till today was designed to starve and deprive Cubans for the purpose of inspiring them to rise up and overthrow Castro. This was after napalm-bombing attacks by tax-paid planes from Florida, repeated assassination attempts against Castro, the Bay of Pigs attack, the bombing of Cubana Flight 455, etc., etc. had failed to overthrow Castro. Now Mr. MacDuff, explain to your choir how starving and depriving supposedly helpless and totally innocent people was/is a wonderful policy easily enacted by a handful of vicious Cuban exiles hiding behind the skirts of the world’s most powerful nation. No, Cubans on the island are not “flourishing financially” but they have done something most OTHER people in most other LARGE nations would not have done, which is to SURVIVE. It is amazing to me that, after all these decades, there are people in the U. S. still benefitting — economically, politically or revengefully — from a policy against a weak, little nation, A POLICY that the rest of the world abhors. But, Mr. MacDuff, explain to us why the majority in that 191-to-2 UN vote are total idiots and why the richest nation in world history, and a major aid-giver, can only persuade Israel to support its Cuban policy. Do you actually agree that a starving-depriving policy is moral and do you really believe it hurts and, HEY, might overthrow Castro ANY DAY NOW but doesn’t hurt or harm anyone else on the island? Incredible!

  • May 16, 2016 at 4:02 am
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    I am very happy to see that my Cuban experience coincides with that of other readers who have had the interest to scratch a bit below the surface.

    I also wanted to clarify that, in this article, my aim was to convey some of the conflicting attitudes and opinions that I was exposed to, without necessarily sharing them.

    If I were to express an opinion about the Cuban Revolution -or even about the Mayday Parade- it would definitely be in a very different article, based on systematic research.

  • May 15, 2016 at 9:29 pm
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    My personal opinion is that if the current regime was to hold a multi-party election at short notice and given that they have total control of the media, the Communist Party of Cuba would probably win.
    But if there was a time lag between announcing that there were going to be multi-party elections in say a minimum 6 months with time for others to organize, to clarify policies and to communicate them through an open free media, then the probability is that the PCC would lose out.
    The PCC would undoubtedly play on fears, fear of the unknown, fear of loss of the miniscule levels of income and pensions and upon that indoctrinated ‘respect’ about which I have mentioned previously. You may have noted that I have recently on several occasions recorded Dr. Ernesto Guevara saying that:
    “People have to think as a mass, to think as an individual is criminal.”
    The regime has been following that concept for fifty-six years including initially the rural camps where it was endeavored to ingrain Stalin’s concept of ‘The new man.”
    Free open discussion is unknown to the Cuban population at large, but if one gets a group all of whom trust each other, sitting in a home, there is much cynicism expressed about the regime and resentment about its total power and control Cubans think that people ought to be paid more for more work and that the shiftless should earn less than those who apply themselves. Several members of my family are engaged in the professions and some have worked in Venezuela and Equador, and the professions resent the fact that a fellow cycling around and re-selling 200 gm loaves for 6 pesos having bought them for 5, can exceed the incomes that they receive for years of university education and working 7-8 hour days. Currently the political hierarchy are the aristocracy of Cuba and that applies nationally, provincially and locally, undoubtedly most of them would support the regime. Even on each residential block, the President of the CDR is superior as it is he (almost invariably they are male) who makes reports upon who is living on his block, what they are doing, whether they are expressing views contrary to ‘the revolution’ what activities they are involved in and with whom they are meeting. There is a file held by MININT on every person. That is reality!
    You will note my saying that almost invariably the presidents of the CDR are male. That is despite some 65% of those holding professional positions in Cuba being female – next time you see photographs of the Executive of the PCC, check on the sex ratio!
    Racism is another factor which again can be checked by looking at photographs.
    You ask if people would ‘freely march’? Give them freedom to do so and watch! Currently such opportunity is reserved for PCC organised events.

  • May 15, 2016 at 6:58 pm
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    Carlyle, you’re in the thick of the small town Cuba, what’s your consensus with the folks you know? Do any support the revolution and would they freely march? What I’m seeing, youtube and independent broadcasts, there are a whole lot more people than I thought who do like Castro and the results of 50 plus years of the revolution. Could be wrong and never been to Cuba.

  • May 15, 2016 at 4:09 pm
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    “the trues measure of the Cuban government’s effectiveness in restoring prosperity to Cuba” implies firstly that Cuba was previously prosperous and secondly that it is so now.
    To suggest that Cubans are flourishing financially is a really sick piece of humour.
    The US Cuban Democracy Act was directed at the Castro regime not at the people of Cuba illustrated by this direct quote from the Act:
    “to maintain sanctions on the Castro regime so long as it continues to refuse to move towards democratization and greater respect for human rights” and;
    “to encourage free and fair elections to determine Cuba’s political future.”
    It is clear that the embargo failed as the Castros are still in power and Cubans stiil do not have human rights, free and fair and free elections.
    The US ought to have recognised many years ago that their policy failed as for example the Castros have never revealed to conditions for lifting the embargo to the people of Cuba as it would undoubtedly reduce their grip and secondly it was the people of Cuba who were penalized as the Castros continued to live in comfort as evidenced by Fidel’s several homes with swimming pools and tennis court, his two island retreat of Cayo Piedra with the 700′ long bridge and pier for his yacht Aquarama II and the ability of RAFIN SA (named after the principals) to stump up $706 million to purchase a 27% shareholding in ETECSA the Cuban monopoly telephone company.
    In effect, the Castros have been able to exploit the embargo by holding it responsible for their own inadequacies, hence my opposition to it.
    You are correct Ken in suspecting that the regime has other methods of ensuring attendance at its celebrations, it follows a similar process at the so-called elections where all the candidates are members of the Communist Party of Cuba. Record is maintained of who has voted thus ensuring through fear, that folks go to vote. However many who do actually leave their voting papers blank but are recorded as having voted.
    For those of us who actually live in Cuba as members of Cuban families, the picture painted by Terry Downey is unrecognizable. But then he thinks that they are prosperous with average earnings of little more than $20 per month and pensions of $8 which when divided over the whole population of 11.1 million works out at 33 cents per day. Just how prosperous can a person be?

  • May 15, 2016 at 12:55 pm
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    That’s been my experience too. When talking privately with many Cubans, their incredible devotion and pride in their revolution is something that rises above all of the anti-Castro propaganda regularly spewed by Moses and his supporters. Cubans know that their government is not perfect… but they also know what it was like before the revolution too. There’s still a lot of support for their government…even though their government gives them a lot to grumble about. But then… who doesn’t grumble about their government, no matter where they live? No matter what anyone says… the true measure of the Cuban government’s effectiveness in restoring prosperity to Cuba can never be realized nor criticized until the US disengages all interventionist policies meant to cripple the Cuban people to insight political dissent with their government. Cubans are not stupid… they know the truth. America has indeed done a remarkable job of helping to cripple the Cuban people with their insane and illegal policies intent on defeating their revolution. But what the US government has never been able to understand is that Cuba’s government represents the revolution… they’re one in the same.

  • May 15, 2016 at 12:53 pm
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    I enjoyed your article Isabella and you are so very right: they are a proud , open and inventive people and I learned this a few when my trips took me to the more remote areas of Cuba where survival with no resources forced them to use ingenuity to the max. Earlier in this century I had stays with friends in Havana and saw the good and dark side of the city at times. I even partook in the protest parade for little Elian Gonzalez but I remained in naïveté until I travelled by train and bus towards the eastern end and began to realize just how strong these people are in the face of adversity. It was then that I fell in love with Cubans , even the “bad apples” because how could I judge them , having never been in their shoes. I got to visit maternity homes, peso shops, attend a wedding or two, and spoke in my broken Spanish to local fishermen and farmers , to those who had fought beside Che and Fidel there in the mountains, to students and professionals , who had hopes of work abroad to get that first car as well as the chance to help their families. Their knowledge of internet devices and other things not in their everyday world astounded me. I thought to myself, watch out Americans, the Cubans are ready for you but are you ready for them.

  • May 15, 2016 at 10:57 am
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    “Is it true that people are forced to take part in the parade?”
    “What a lie!” she replied with passion….
    Granted that there is genuine support for the revolution. But I still wonder if some people might not come out if they weren’t mobilized in their work place. In some Eastern European countries year-end bonuses could be denied to workers who failed to come out for certain big demonstrations. I’d be surprised if it went that far in Cuba, but i don’t in fact know.

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