My Second Cuban Experience

by Aaron Etches

HAVANA TIMES — My first trip to Cuba was two years ago in September 2014. Two friends and I bought a boat in Key West and brought her down to Central America. We stopped for two days in Havana and it was the highlight of our trip. It left me wanting more! Much more.

Not really needing an excuse to return when I heard the Rolling Stones were doing a free concert for the people of Cuba I couldn’t pass it up. Never seen the Stones, wanting and yearning to return, and for what seems like an obvious serendipitous reason, a direct flight from my little island to Cuba is now available on a Honduran airline called Easy Sky every Wednesday!

What started out as a Facebook post in jest about flying to Cuba to see the Rolling Stones quickly turned into a motley group of 14 Roatan residents consisting of 2 Hondurans, 7 US citizens, 2 Canadians, 2 Dutch and one Englishman. A great group that surprising got along very well.

Tickets bought and after securing our rooms through Cubabookingroom.com we were all set.

My wife and I stayed at a clean and inexpensive little “casa particular” in Old Havana, Gatos Malan. Basic, but centrally located and within walking distance to all the top attractions in Old Havana. And we walked! A lot. Museums and cafes by day, bars and restaurants at night. Could have used the peddle cabs more, but every time we asked for a recommended bar or cafe the answer from the friendly Havana residents was always ‘Dos Bloques…”. It never was, but we didn’t mind.

At our favorite cafe "5 esquinas"
At our favorite cafe “5 esquinas”

Our favorite cafe for breakfast was 5 Esquinas. Breakfast consisted of coffee, fresh juices, fresh fruits, eggs and meats all for less than $5CUC! Ate there quite a bit. Also had their pizza a few times and it was very good.

Our favorite restaurant was called El Carbon on Chacon St.. My wife had the dolphin fish and I had the suckling pig. We had a group dinner here on out last night and they handled our motley crew with ease.

Contrary to what we heard, the food in Cuba was great. Out of seven days we only had three bad meals. Prices had gone up since my last visit, but still reasonable. For libation we followed Hemingway’s advice, “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita”, but after explored elsewhere.  Music was everywhere. Good music, acoustic music! Best we found was at a bar called Lluvia de Oro. Always had a good crowd and lively entertainment. Not as nice as the others, but the drinks were priced accordingly. Mojitos always made the night, but the morning tax on our heads was heavy.

In Varadero
In Varadero

Wanting to get out of the city a few of us decided to hire a taxi and hit Varadero. Literally hit it since we decided to play golf. The course was in great shape and the scenery incredible. Xanadu and the surrounding buildings were in immaculate condition. This was our most expensive day of the trip, but we had to do it.

The course seemed relatively easy to us “25 handycappers” until hole 16. We should have known something was amiss when the club Pro drove by us at hole 11 and told us to “Say hello to the water..HAHAHAHA”. Scores after this hole were about 101-110 for the day. We left lots of balls left for the locals to swim out. Our beer cart lady Maria always had cold Cristal and a warm smile for us. Extremely proud of her son who is the local champion and a scratch golfer so be prepared to listen.

The Rolling Stones concert in Havana on March 25, 2016
The Rolling Stones concert in Havana on March 25, 2016

The Rolling Stones concert has been written about enough already, so I won’t go into great detail about it. We arrived early at 3pm and settled in until the 8:45pm start. Now Friday the 25th will go down as one of the best days of our lives, but one thing we were disappointed in was the “Free Concert” turned into a scalper’s dream with a special section for those with “Invitaciones”.

Although these invitations were given out free to students and factory workers, they had no trouble embracing capitalism and selling them to foreigners. From talking to everyone prices for the invitations varied from $3 CUC to $30 CUC. Nothing exorbitant, but turned the venue into a two class tiered show. Our group “reluctantly” paid the piper and enjoyed the show having come all the way from Roatan, Honduras.

Our group.
Our group.

Overall a spectacular experience that will go down as the best concert I have ever been to. Must say that Mick Jagger at 72 years old has found the Fountain of Youth somewhere and is hiding it from the rest of us.

Our flight left Wednesday the 30th. All of us said we’ll be back. Havana may be changing fast, but Cuba is an enormous island and we can’t wait to explore it. Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Santiago are on our lists. I’m sure more will be added in the coming years!

Aaron Etches
Roatan Honduras.

PS: My wife packed an extra suitcase of old toys that our kids had gotten tired of. While walking around she handed them out to kids. The smiles we received paid for our trip!


47 thoughts on “My Second Cuban Experience

  • April 11, 2016 at 12:12 am
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    So you kinda totally agree with all my points, but you don’t agree with how I stated them.

    I can live with that.

    Thanks.

  • April 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm
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    Eden – I’m not sure you recognize how critical and angry you come across. You trash Aaron behind the veil of an initial compliment and then your true colors really show when you no-holes barred slam on Terry and Informed. The transparency of your written rage is not only totally disproportionate to any “crime” you feel Aaron committed but it also negates the significant point you want to make.

    Your statement to me – “that indiscriminate gifting to people who you do not know is never a good thing. Period..” – is clearly not one a thinking person would make. Nearly all charitable funds go to people who the donor does not know. Have you never helped out a stranger in need? Common acts of courtesy take place every day between strangers. Stick with your point and avoid open ended condemnations.

    The one point I understand you are making is that giving money to random kids both encourages a beggar culture and plays into the hands of older Cubans who pimp the kids to get tourist money. Good point. All you got to do is say it.

    You seem far more interested and eloquent in Aaron and others) that they don’t respect Cuba than you are in appreciating that he tried, even if you think he failed. Good intentions do matter. Better someone who tries to help than the classic entitled American tourist who sees Cuba as a cute 1950s island mean to service his/her holiday desires. Not only will they not respect Cubans, they won’t care if they don’t.

    All you gotta do is say, ‘Hey Aaron, it’s great that you want to give but there are probably better ways to do it, why don’t you check out X, Y and Z.’ It’s a nicer and more effective way to get your point across.

    Also, the whole definition of a “short term tourist” is basically being new to a country, its customs and lifestyles and issues. It’s not so obvious to all visitors that child begging is a problem in Cuba (or other developing countries). Foreigners don’t necessary encounter the same thing, nor are aware that kids are cutting school or being pimped out. And there is a difference between kids who beg as an occupation versus those who ask for a CUC for a photo. Some of the responsibility here falls on Cuba to figure out ways to deal with the problem internally.

    It’s not as cut and dry as you make it, nor is it a clear act of disrespect and ignorance. It’s more a lack of understanding that comes from inexperience not malice. Try being a bit more of an educator than the morality squad. There’s no question that Cubans want tourist money and do a number of things to get it. Should visitors avoid giving money to the costumed Colonial-era ladies who smoke cigars and pose for a photo for a buck? You tell me…

  • April 8, 2016 at 6:42 pm
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    We were actually pleasantly surprised at the quality of the cheeses at a couple restaurants. Cheese that tasted fresh and not full of preservatives.

  • April 8, 2016 at 6:40 pm
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    Agree. But both countries followed different paths and one is a helluva lot worse off than the other today. Honduras today is worse off than Cuba before the revolution.

  • April 5, 2016 at 5:02 pm
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    Which is exactly my point. There’s not an endless stream of “throw candy from the bus” tourists there, thus the begging culture is not nearly as prevalent as elsewhere. Good on you for being a respectful tourist.

  • April 5, 2016 at 4:39 pm
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    Have you been to Marea del Portillo? First of all there are a lot of repeaters who have become friends with the locals and help them out. Many new visitors went to the schools in the area. We all do what we can and maybe a few indiscriminately hand things out but they are not a majority at least not in Marea.

  • April 4, 2016 at 8:38 pm
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    Informed Consent and Eden, I think all the points regarding Aarons post were made and discussed. Lets move on to other articles and issues and keep from insulting each other.

  • April 4, 2016 at 7:15 pm
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    Assumed nothing about me? ….but of course you did my dear. You said; “It’s too bad there’s still so many tourists like “Informed Consent” who will never accept any responsibility when they leave their all-inclusive resort. Everything will always be all about them and screw the local culture. Oh well, no big deal, ignorance is bliss. Quite an assumption.

    Anyways Cubas real problems are more severe than some giveaways to children. Cuba is not some backward island, despite the damage the Castros have done.

  • April 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm
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    “… They are not a function of what few “handouts” are provided by any tourists…”

    Absolutely incorrect.

    Read my description of how truant officers are now working in Havana because of the countless tour buses filled with tourists handing out crap to every kid they see. Go on the jeep excursion from the Varadero resorts and see kids lining the road catching candy and coins from the tourists blasting past. Go to Trinidad and see the kids by the railway tracks doing the very same thing.

    Your support of “throwing candy from the bus” is precisely why those kids are out begging. This was utterly unheard of less than 10 years ago.

  • April 4, 2016 at 3:20 pm
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    Pissing people off? I have a lot more upvotes and supportive replies than you do.

    In any case I assumed nothing about you. I simply commented on the content of your remarks, the very same as I did with Aaron.

    You’re fine with tourists throwing candy from the bus, that means you’re the same as the countless other tourists who are just as thoughtless.

    Whether you’re Cuban or where you sleep when you visit is immaterial. You still support the actions of naive and/or ignorant tourists so in my opinion there’s no difference.

    As I’ve stated repeatedly I really don’t care one way or the other,
    people like you will never change your opinion so it’s a wasted
    discussion. At least Aaron tried to clarify his position and distance
    himself from those actions.

    All the best to you. Happy travels.

  • April 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm
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    I believe those lessons have already been learned under the Castro system. They are not a function of what few “handouts” are provided by any tourists. Che’s “New Man” philosophy has created a generation (or two) of layabouts, jineteras y oportunistas. And until thr system changes and incentives introduced that will remain the case.

  • April 4, 2016 at 1:46 pm
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    Eden. You seem to have s gift for pissing people off. You are indeed, as you’ve indicated, preachy. I think part of the problem is that you assume much. You did that with Loaferoatan and you’ve done that with me. Thus your conclusions are based on erroneous data. Example; I am Cuban, I lived in Cuba when I was young and my father was in a in a labor camp. I still have some family on the island that I help support. When I visit I try and stay only in a Casa Particular. I would not stay kn an all – inclusive hotel to line Fidel’s pockets with any more money. ……stop assuming. But you are new to this site so I’ll forgive you 😉

  • April 4, 2016 at 11:46 am
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    I have no clue what you’re trying to insinuate, I explained the ease of WiFi access very clearly. There’s nothing secretive or complicated. It’s a very straightforward process.

    ==================

    That said, in hindsight I’m sorry I got so preachy over the weekend, Aaron. I should have accepted your statement, “… Being from a tourist island in the poor country of Honduras we have seen first hand what tourists and cruise ships do to kids…” at face value and left it that that. Blame the mojitos.

    It’s too bad there’s still so many tourists like “Informed Consent” who will never accept any responsibility when they leave their all-inclusive resort. Everything will always be all about them and screw the local culture. Oh well, no big deal, ignorance is bliss.

    If you ever swing by Havana again feel free to drop me a line and I’ll show you a little bit of Cuba that isn’t in the guide books.

    All the best to you.

  • April 4, 2016 at 11:42 am
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    You need to do some impartial research (using UN statistics for example) about the economic and social situation for Cuba before 1959, and compare that with the rest of Latin America then. You will realize that to compare Cuba with Honduras at any time is not logical at all.

  • April 4, 2016 at 9:57 am
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    My “tune” will change when there are no Castros in charge, when elections in Cuba are open, multiparty, and transparent, and when the press is independent of government control. Until then, your “Mohito buzz” is safe.

  • April 4, 2016 at 9:53 am
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    OK, so relatively speaking, it was good pizza. Relative to the pizza on your adopted Honduran island. Not a very high bar is it? I’ll check it out next time that I am in Havana. I have NEVER had a pizza in all of Cuba that used real mozzarella and real pepperoni at the same time. But hey, things are changing every day and besides, I don’t go to Cuba looking for good pizza. The truth is I don’t expect to eat well at all so when I have a decent meal, I am pleasantly surprised. Glad that you had a good time.

  • April 4, 2016 at 9:39 am
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    Sadly, you are very correct. Not only children learn to skip their responsibilities. After not very long, some adults would learn that being a ‘jinetera’ beats being a nurse/secretary/store clerk etc.

  • April 3, 2016 at 11:48 pm
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    Done. Cannot find the energy or will to continue this “debate”. Still not 100% sure how you are able to maintain such a high internet presence with the rules and internet availability you outlined above unless you have access to the internet the majority of Cubans do not have. And if you have this access then you must have access to others things the majority of Cubans do not have. And if this is indeed the case there is no real reason to debate further.

  • April 3, 2016 at 10:45 pm
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    “… We visit the Granma province every year and find very few people
    looking for handouts although it is one of the poorest provinces…”

    And why do you think that’s the case, Maureen? It’s because there are very few all-inclusive resort tourists who are taking off-resort excursions and acting in a manner that is disrespectful to the social fabric of the
    local culture.

    Let loose a bunch of naive tourists throwing candy from the bus and see how long it takes for kids to start skipping school and instead start standing at the side of the road waiting for the foreign Santa Claus to show up.

  • April 3, 2016 at 10:40 pm
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    Buff up on your reading comprehension. I listed a pile of proper channels to funnel your much needed generosity.

  • April 3, 2016 at 7:32 pm
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    Name one example of where in the world it’s a good thing for a short term tourist to “throw candy from the bus” so to speak, in a developing country.

  • April 3, 2016 at 5:58 pm
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    Cuba is not a typical developing country that offers lots of volunteer opportunities nor is it set up to receive foreign aid (there are many places in the Caribbean and Central American in MUCH more dire conditions) but here’s a few suggestions for proper distribution of donations…

    1.) The Dubois Foundation does great work in Cuba:
    http://www.duboischaritablefoundation.com/

    2.) For animal lovers these guys are top-notch: http://www.spankyproject.org I’ve never dealt directly with this group, but they come highly recommended: https://www.facebook.com/CubanAnimals

    3.) In Varadero drop off your donations to Father Jesus Marcolesta or the secretary Joaquim Herrera at the Iglesia Santa Elvira (St. Elvira’s Church), # 4604 on Avenida 1 and Calle 47.

    4.) In Havana the Presencia de Lenin, Filial Artemisa, Lu-Sin, Hogar para Niños sin Amparo Filial Bauta, Aguilera Maceira and Mi Casita out in Guanabo are orphanages that always need kid’s stuff. Ask your casa owner or hotel concierge where the nearest home is for single Moms and/or the nearest retirement home, they always appreciate support to.

    It should go without saying do not show up unannounced to any school. (The school in Varadero had to put up a fence to keep resort tourists off the property!) Call ahead and make an appointment directly with the Principle to drop-off after hours. Never, ever give anything directly to the students.

    =================================

    Besides all the hotels/resorts with WiFi there are now 120+ public WiFi spots across Cuba. Internet cards are 2 CUC/hour. Connections (of course) vary wildly from quite excellent to fairly terrible.

    Skype is illegal so outside of the business/tourist hotels it’s blocked (almost) everywhere in Cuba. Cubans use IMO. With a semi-decent connection it (usually) works okay.
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.imo.android.imoim&hl=en

  • April 3, 2016 at 5:52 pm
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    Of course I edited “American” to “foreigner.” You corrected my mistaken impression that you’re American so of course I corrected my mistaken label.

    Let’s not forget your original statement that initiated my original reply to you: “… My wife packed an extra suitcase of old toys that our kids had gotten tired of. While walking around she handed them out to kids. The smiles we received paid for our trip!…”

    That statement describes precisely the naive/ignorant actions of foreigners who are addicted to the their Santa Claus complex and insist on gifting to complete strangers in developing countries, thus my original reply was completely accurate and in no way earned your attempt at a snarky comeback.

    In your follow-up reply you still admit to gifting children who you didn’t know, but you, “asked the parents.” Big deal. And you still claimed you gave out candy to kids, for crying out loud. And a hat to a “polite kid.” So you kept digging the hole deeper.

    Then your next reply is full-on back-pedal mode, trying to do an about face by completely changing your original post and now claiming that you’re actually not gifting strangers, but that your donation really went to people who you did know to some extent… and family members of friends… and teachers…

    I don’t care one way or another what you do in Cuba. People who disregard responsible travel practises and gift indiscriminately in order to “buy smiles” arrive in countless numbers to Cuba, it’s an avalanche that’s unstoppable. That doesn’t mean that an occasional post that appears to be written by someone with some intelligence and an honest appreciation of the island shouldn’t be gently corrected for poor manners. (And I’ll also point out that I defended other aspects of your post to other contributors a couple of times.)

    Bottom line, you came across as making very bad choices… then becoming defensive, rude and condescending when they were pointed out to you… then trying to change the original perception… then doing a total reversal of the OP in order to justify what you were really doing. It’s only the internet and things easily get misunderstood, but that appears to be a pretty lame attempt at back-tracking.

    If I’m wrong I apologise.

  • April 3, 2016 at 5:45 pm
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    Ignore her. At this point you could fund a workers co-op employing 1000 Cubans and she would still find fault. What you did was very nice and I’m sure the children appreciated it. That’s all there is to it.

  • April 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm
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    No its not. That is simply your opinion.

  • April 3, 2016 at 4:13 pm
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    The “all knowing foreigner” (nice edit BTW) who’s family has had more interactions with everyday Cubans than you presume. It may have been my second visit, but my sister is on the Honduran Beach Volleyball team and regularly plays against the Cuban team. We hear their complaints about everyday life in Cuba. There is a tournament there soon and we will be accompanying her again (with bags). On our island there are a few Cubans that have left that have family in Havana and the outskirts. We always check what they need and bring it to them. I’ll ask again since you have yet to answer my question: What are the proper channels that foreigners can go through to help everyday Cubans? There are needs whether you see them or not from your perch. I do have another question though: During my visit getting online was not easy. It was expensive and could only be at the higher end hotels. The average Cuban didn’t have general access to the internet and many people were always outside of the hotels trying to get online. Do you work for the government, live near a hotel, or have internet at your home? Your internet presence seems to suggest a lifestyle way above what the average Cuban can afford or get access to.

  • April 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm
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    “… It is sad that actions of genuine human concern and generosity are met with such hostility and anger…”

    You need to read the article again.

    It’s ONLY point is that indiscriminate gifting to people who you do not know is never a good thing. Period.

    That’s simple common sense in ANY developing country.

  • April 3, 2016 at 12:38 pm
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    Eden,
    Thanks very much for the great and well written report. I am now preparing for another trip to Cuba and looking forward to it. This time I will try Cubabookingroom.com; go to 5 Esquinas and have drinks at Lluvia de Oro!! Thank you so much! Michael

  • April 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm
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    Terry…the Trip Advisor article is very thorough and good….but so wrong in many ways. It is sad that actions of genuine human concern and generosity are met with such hostility and anger. First, you cannot expect a new tourist, or even one with some experience, to understand the intricacies of Cuban life….to know that little kids are being pimped out by older Cubans to put on a sad face to get money….or that the Cuban economic system is so hugely flawed that maids and bartenders make more than economists and engineers. Whose fault is that ultimately? Cuba’s fault. When Cubans visit the US as tourists, they don’t learn all the subtle aspects of our society, or about poverty in the US….but many readers here seem to think American or Honduran tourists are being disrespectful if they don’t have a Cuban perspective.
    Second, what is clearly going on now since Obama has made Havana the “it” place to be is that significant money is flowing into Cuba….much more than the Europeans and Canadians ever brought. And it is primarily coming thru the tourist industry or services and businesses that deal with tourists and other visitors. The name of the game is to get close to the American money and catch some of it when it falls.
    Are Americans telling Cubans to do this? No. Cubans are doing it of their own free will. In a truly socialist society, people wouldn’t accept the money….maybe turn it over to their CDC. But Cuba is not really socialist….and what is happening now is what happens when you let capitalism in the door. You get seduced by the money and the products….its called consumer capitalism and it is the end game of Obama’s policy. Give Cubans a taste of capitalism and let them fight the fight with the government. If people turn down tourist’s gifts, they will stop giving.
    Finally, the real problem is that the Cuban government has ignored its economy for years and continues to fail to rebuild the industries and businesses where people could earn a better living than by trying to get tourist money. But that will require giving up enough control that foreign businesses actually want to do business in Cuba. Why have all the European and other western businesses chose not to invest in Cuba? Until the government figures this out, the flow of foreign capital into businesses aside from tourism will continue to be stagnant. Cuba lacks any sort of first world economy in many industries, in agriculture, in construction, in telecommunications, in shipping, in computer science…and on and on. These are the types of jobs that require training and education and, in many countries, pay well….But that’s not the case in Cuba.
    Whose fault is that? The tourists? I don’t think so.

  • April 3, 2016 at 11:39 am
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    Glad you had a wonderful time Aaron! From one Canadian to another our contributions are greatly appreciated even if at times they don’t go through the “proper” channels as some contend. We visit the Granma province every year and find very few people looking for handouts although it is one of the poorest provinces.

  • April 3, 2016 at 11:17 am
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    Yes the pizza at 5 Equinas in Havana was better than the pizza we get in the tourist based capitalist town I live in. Worth mentioning because of the fresh ingredients. Since I grew up on rice and (red) beans, plantains and fish, this did stand out. Sorry.

  • April 3, 2016 at 11:12 am
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    There are two people in Cuba who use the phrase “Willy Nilly”? Full of good points. Proper channels and organizations were brought up again. What are they? I do not agree 100% having visited family members of friends inside and outside of Havana and listening to their needs and hardships. And Eden, I’m not American. I have dual citizenship. Honduran and Canadian.

  • April 3, 2016 at 10:21 am
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    Then why take the cheap shot at all?…

  • April 3, 2016 at 7:21 am
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    Sorry, Aaron, but I have to agree with Eden completely. Although I also know that your heart was in the right place, the thing that many new tourists to Cuba forget is that there are literally thousands of other tourists doing exactly the same thing each week. It’s easy to think that your kind gesture couldn’t possibly cause any harm, but when you consider there are plane loads of other tourists arriving in Cuba each week and doing the exactly the same thing…. well, I think you get the picture.

    Here is an article on Trip Advisor that will help you and others better understand the damage that is being done by gifting in Cuba.

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g147270-c129786/Cuba:Caribbean:Think.Before.You.Gift.html

    Aaron, it’s a very touchy subject…but please keep an open mind and read that article. I’m really glad you had an amazing second trip to Cuba…many others passionately love Cuba and the Cuban people too. I hope you’ll return to Cuba again soon. 🙂

  • April 3, 2016 at 1:17 am
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    Keep on hatin’ Moses….don’t go changing your tune now that Hopey and Changey have visited your island and spread the pixie dust around. If you start getting all nice to everyone it’ll totally ruin my Mohito buzz.

  • April 2, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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    “… Being from a tourist island in the poor country of Honduras we
    have seen first hand what tourists and cruise ships do to kids…”

    Then you have no excuse whatsoever for trying to justify handing out stuff willy-nilly on the street to kids/family who you did not know.

  • April 2, 2016 at 10:09 pm
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    People like me? I hate the Castros, is that what you mean? The EMBARGO did not work as planned obviously but it did stem the Castros bloodlust to destroy other countries with their failed ideology. I’m glad to see the albeit small but irreversible changes taking place in Cuba. Maybe one day I won’t have to send money to help support my Cuban family in Guantanamo.

  • April 2, 2016 at 10:04 pm
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    He said he liked the pizza! Really? Besides, I thought I acknowledged that my human rights comment was a little unfair.

  • April 2, 2016 at 9:11 pm
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    (Answer to your response that has since been deleted, why?) Eden, I honestly don’t feel the need to go back and forth with you over this so this may be my last response on the matter. Nothing was done “Willy-Nilly” as you have accused. Sorry. Most of our “donations” were given to employees at our hostal or family members of friends we were asked to visit. School supplies were given through teachers. With the exception the toys and candy which we gave to kids with parents. Sorry to step on your self righteous toes, but we have not contributed to the “new” begging culture in Havana as you’ve implied. Others may have have because it’s there and it won’t go away, so I see your point and concerns. Regarding your comment though, what “proper channels” do you suggest future charitable visitors go through? Churches? The State? Please enlighten us.

  • April 2, 2016 at 8:09 pm
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    “… Being from a tourist island in the poor country of Honduras we have seen first hand what tourists and cruise ships do to kids…”

    Then you shouldn’t have been handling stuff out willy-nilly on the street to kids/family who you did not know.

  • April 2, 2016 at 7:53 pm
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    I’ve head that cliche’ before. But I’m from Honduras were our human rights extend beyond that to trying not to be killed by drug gangs and finding ONE meal a day. Want to see what Cuba might have looked like before the revolution? Come to Honduras and see pure corruption, crime and poverty in the name of capitalism. No system is 100% perfect. A healthy mix is required in a society. Hopefully after 50 years this will happen in Cuba (but not too fast please!)

  • April 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm
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    Sorry to “disturb” you. Because I didn’t want to get into great detail about everything we did let me clarify how these exchanges actually happened: My wife and I brought four VERY large suitcases full of items. Clothing, shoes, school supplies, toys, hygiene products etc. Everything were were told that was hard to get in Cuba. Never did we give anything to a child without asking the adults around them with the small exception of some candy when passing (and one of my favourite hats to a child that was very polite). My wife always asked for a “gracias” and was always aware of the manners of the recipients having three kids ourselves. Visiting friends in Cuba we also took them items we knew were hard or impossible to allocate. Being from a tourist island in the poor country of Honduras we have seen first hand what tourists and cruise ships do to kids.

  • April 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm
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    “… But having a good time drinking mojitos and dancing salsa doesn’t make the lack of basic human rights in Cuba okay…”

    And who the hell said it was?!?!

    Honestly, I see no reason whatsoever why that cheap shot is appropriate. He’s a tourist. So what. Get over it.

  • April 2, 2016 at 7:43 pm
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    Moses,

    Aaron’s group are obviously not low-end travellers. If you have a few bucks then great food is easy find near the tourist centres.

    The recent explosion of paladars – many of them operated by foreigners – means that crap food is a thing of the past. With proper research even low-end budget backpackers can eat very well in Cuba now.

    The days of a greasy piece of chicken and dry rice & beans being the only choice are long gone.

  • April 2, 2016 at 6:50 pm
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    Moses you must be spinning in your self imposed grave to see that you have lost.
    It’s all over for people like you, we all saw it coming but you are too full of hatred to change.
    Your way of thinking has never changed anything, after 60 years of your blocade the proof is easy to see.

  • April 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm
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    Nice write-up Aaron, but this behaviour is very disturbing:

    “… My wife packed an extra suitcase of old toys that our kids had gotten tired of. While walking around she handed them out to kids. The smiles we received paid for our trip!…”

    I know your hearts are in the right place and I know you mean nothing but the absolute best for the Cuban people, but handing out gifts willy-nilly to children you don’t even know is utterly wrong on multiple levels. Try doing that at a playground in many places like the US, Canada, etc. and someone would call the cops.

    Please respect the Cuban people enough – especially the children – to not turn them into a nation of beggars. In my Havana neighbourhood of Park Central for the first time in history truant officers have been hired to return kids to school because thanks to the actions of people like you the kids are instead trolling the endless tour buses filled with naive/ignorant foreigners handing out gifts with no thought whatsoever of how their actions tear at the social fabric of the local culture.

    Please, direct your much needed generosity through the proper channels where it’s assured it goes to the people in the most need, and stop contributing to a beggar culture in a proud country where you’re a valued guest.

    Glad the rest of your trip was great.

  • April 2, 2016 at 4:32 pm
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    Aaron, you sound like you had exactly the experience the Castros wanted you to have. Old Havana, Bodeguita del Medio, Obispo Street and Varadero for good measure. I am genuinely glad that you enjoyed yourself. But having a good time drinking mojitos and dancing salsa doesn’t make the lack of basic human rights in Cuba okay. (You didn’t say that it did, I’m just sensitive ). I also raise an eyebrow about your food comment. They say that the 3 worst things about the Castro revolution are. …breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Still, nice story.

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