The Informal Markets of Cuban Tourism

Por Tania Lorenzo (On Cuba)

Asedio-turismoHAVANA TIMES — When, at the beginning of the 1990s, the US dollar was de-penalized and the Cuban government found its salvation in tourism, few could have imagined that a whole series of informal markets would develop around the inflow of foreign visitors.

The most notable impact of this phenomenon can be seen in Havana, Varadero and Matanzas, though all Cuban provinces – to a greater or lesser extent – have a tourist infrastructure that brings in revenues for the country and for private service providers. No few people have learned to “adapt” to this reality and make some money from visitors, offering transportation, a carwash, fruits, vegetables and other edibles, antiques, entertainment and many other services.

Santa Clara, for instance, is not the tourist destination par excellence. Here, privately operated hostels and restaurants take the lead in a context where State options are few and far between, generating sources of parallel employment as a result of their own, inherent limitations.

Emilia has been running a hostel in the downtown area for 3 years and depends on a minimum of four other people, those who buy the food and supplies for her business and satisfy the “whims” of the guests. From what she tells us, these “whims” can be anything from under-the-table tobacco, other smokeable products and, of course, “entertainment.”

“The next-door neighbors look after the cars at night. If they don’t, they get their tires burst before dawn,” Emilia sarcastically explains. “Another friend washes the cars, so they’re clean in the morning, and that’s all on the house.”

Asedio-turismo-4When one inquires about the best lodging options, the most frequent suggestion is to head over to Maritza’s, a 60-year-old woman who is always on the lookout for new tourists. “I help them, see. Because they’re not from here and they don’t know where anything is, where to stay or eat.”

The woman has a very humble appearance to her, even though she claims to make a minimum of 10 CUC (11 USD) a day through the commissions she receives by taking tourists to hostels and restaurants. On some occasions, tourists have invited her to dine with them. In those cases, she has asked for them to take the food to her in a doggy bag, as the restaurant owners aren’t too pleased with such invitations. “It’s not a part of the contract,” they explain.

“How do you manage to communicate with them?” I ask her. “It’s not that difficult. I make gestures and everything else is “good morning, my friend!””

The number of visitors hoping to get to know the socio-cultural peculiarities of the island and understand – if that’s possible – this outlandish bastion of tropical socialism, is increasing.

On Cuba Street, a stone’s throw away from where Maritza works, we run into Pierre at a lineup of people in front of a pizza parlor. This “friend” is a Quebecois who isn’t afraid of the heat. He walks around in shorts and thongs, dances with the first person to ask him and talks with everyone, including me.

asedio-turismo-3“Doesn’t that bother you?” I ask him, pointing out the street corner where the Money Exchange is located and where we left Maritza and her zealous rivals behind. “No, it’s nothing like what happens at El Cobre, in Santiago de Cuba, or Trinidad,” he replies. “Things get really uncomfortable there, people even tug at your clothes.” Handling the hot pizza as best he can, he tells me that there are far more many beggars in other countries.

Many of the people who stalk tourists in Cuba, however, are not beggars, as Pierre seems to believe. There are those who are a bit more dispossessed, like Roberto, who lost his left leg and doesn’t work as a car washer for any hostel or business. He waits for a car to arrive and offers this service to the driver. He knows some people say yes out of pity, but he doesn’t care. His is an honest job and it puts food on his table.

At the entrance of the Santa Clara Libre Hotel we run into Muñeco, a kind of entertainer who is very popular in town, who assures us he is not a “music whore,” that he will sing to anyone, both Cubans and music-loving tourists like Pierre. “I don’t ask for anything. If they give me something, I thank them with another song,” he says.

Others, like Juanito, look for and sell books, pamphlets and three-peso bills (which are all the more valuable if they have Che Guevara’s signature on them). He is a sort of antiques dealer who travels from town to town collecting what he later sells to tourists.

Asedio-turismo-2“I don’t bother them, I do things in a more spontaneous fashion. I’ve had my best days just sitting here, at a park bench, after talking about politics, economics or baseball. They like that. Then you take something out and offer it to them, as though it weren’t that important,” he explains.

More and more are the locals who wait for a tourist bus to arrive and stalk the first foreigner they run into to offer them their services. The drivers and guides do not appear to be bothered by this and become involved in the transaction on occasion.

Some see these efforts as an unavoidable consequence of the need to survive, others look upon it as stains on the island’s landscape, at a time when the Cuba is becoming one of the most attractive destinations in the world.

50 thoughts on “The Informal Markets of Cuban Tourism

  • Deny, deny, deny. Its a failed strategy. You obviously don’t know much about the country you deserted almost 40 years ago. Article 144, of the Cuban Criminal Code which defines the crime of desacato, or “disrespect.” It states that anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults, harms or in anyway outrages or offends, verbally or in writing, the dignity or honor of an authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or because of them can be imprisoned for between three months and one year or fined or both. If the act of disrespect is directed at the head of state or other senior officials the penalty is a prison term from one to three years. Defending the Castros by using the excuse that Saudi Arabia has the same law is a schoolyard tactic. It does not make it any less barbaric. Neither do your alleged personal experiences.

  • You have effectively presented your case that the most powerful, richest and most innovative country that has ever existed is not perfect. Nonetheless, tiny Cuba remains poor and dependent upon the handouts of its neighbors. Despite your claims, the US dollar soars against Latin American currencies. We turn away multiples of Latin American immigrants over the number we approve. Our culture drives music, fashion, movies, and art throughout the hemisphere. If this is what it means to be a “Bloody Yanks and Gringos Cabrones”, ooh baby!

  • I did not, it still says “It don’t work here”. I love the vox-populi and this is pure USA dialect, specially among the people of color who did not get a good education cause none was offered. I use it to add a threatening or emphatic tone to a stern sentence, as above. Check it out, you jumped the gun once again trying to attack my integrity, did I use that right, mister grammar police? You are such an easy mark…

    Mexico and Canada still trade with Cuba and never broke diplomatic relations with us like the rest of the real blood thirsty tyrants and minion governments to Uncle Sam in the Organization of American States at that time (1960’s to 1980’s). They don’t like you either, Bloody Yanks and Gringos Cabrones.

  • Hey Moses, even if we did have that law, which I do not readily believe coming from you, IT”S OUR LAW, as it is also in Thailand to disrespect the King or in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the Emirates to speak against their royal houses. Try badmouthing Sisi in Egypt, law or not, there is always a few others available or none necessary. And these are all Your loyal allies yet I don’t hear rumbling about any of this in neither the USA media or from you. My point is I have never seen this law enforced in Cuba even though I am at total liberty to reveal that I personally found myself in several debating instances, no less, where Fidel, Raúl and the Revolution were criticized to the point at which choleric utterances rang out loud, willy-nilly, bearing their “forbidden” names in “forbidden” ways; and yet no helicopters, nor ships, cars or horses bearing secret men-at-arms burst upon our plainly heard “illegal” scene…Man you are just Total-Drama-King, You got no Mojo working and it wouldn’t work on ME nohow!

  • This comment is from a guy who fled Cuba nearly 40 years ago himself!

  • He, the graffiti artist, had permission to use the pigs as a canvas. Illegal graffiti is based on the unauthorized defacement of property. But if I paint my own house, no laws are broken. You can support the Castros until the cows come home but don’t lie about the problems that they cause. You know, or at least I hope that you do, that if you write, speak and some would say, think, anything negative about the Castros in public you risk being arrested or worse. It’s really a law in Cuba! How weak is that!

  • Nice try. You deleted your mistake after I pointed it out. No big deal but it says a lot about your integrity. Canada and Mexico told the US “to go to hell”? Our two biggest trading partners? Do you know what that phrase means?

  • No Duderino, no grammatical errors here; and that distinction you made between forbade and given a “choice” is laughable. Very few companies “chose” Cuba but our friends Mexico and Canada told Uncle Sam to go to hell and continued to trade with us although many companies in these countries could not because they had major USA accounts and long term contracts. Sorry, you do not confuse me or most people with any intelligence.

  • People of Color/Colored People = non-whites, how would it suit you I make this distinction? So it’s that all you have to bitch about this morning? How about the “famous graffiti artist” getting busted for Graffiti, just like in the good ol’ USA. You can’t graffiti anywhere without permission and not get busted; you could write “I love Obama” and still get busted because the BUST is about the GRAFFITI and not its CONTENT, even though in the USA and most places in this world some Graffiti content could also get you busted for libel, indecency, hate crimes or making threats. So there Moses, you were a pushover this morning, have a nice day!

  • …..and yet Cubans continue to leave that paradise you describe to live in a crime – ridden hell hole US. In record numbers by the way. Even you, with your mountain of excuses have resisted the call for nearly 40 year to return to Castrogonia. What is it that at least 40,000 Cubans this year don’t know about Cuba that you know?

  • Colored people? You had to go all the way back to 1963 for that one. If your only defense of the regime is to deny and sustain your denial with an obscure personal anecdote, then please stop. What if some famous Cuban graffiti artists painted two pigs with the names Fidel and Raul. Would he go to jail? Oh wait, that already happened,and yes, he went to jail.

  • Haha! Not a good place for a grammatical error. It DOESN’T work here. As I have said before, English is not your first (or maybe second) language, so no big deal. The US “forbade” no such thing. Helms-Burton simply says that you can trade with Cuba or you can trade with the US. You can’t do both. If you do and we catch you, you must pay a fine if you wish to continue to do business with the US. There are quite a few companies which choose Cuba. That’s the law. I am far from desperate in my attempts to share my opinion. It is not in my interest to confuse anyone. I’m sorry if you feel confused, Dude.

  • Ridiculous, old man; The USA forbade trade with Cuba to any foreign company upon pain of not being allowed to trade with the USA after, that is not “rejecting trade”, that is blockading a country and trying to starve us out.
    “Funding civil society projects…” is simply sending large amounts of cash to buy opposition to our government and meddle in our internal affairs.
    These are acts of hostility with “extreme prejudice”, nothing more, nothing less.
    Words matter and you like to twist them, invent them and misinterpret them in a desperate attempt at confusing the issue and obscuring my very clear statements; it don’t work here, Dude so: TAKE A HIKE!

  • Baloney, Moses…But what it’s undeniable is the Millions of Poor and/or Colored Citizens of the USA that are denied equal treatment by the arresting cops and in the administration of Justice by the Court System, where as in any other aspect of life there, money talks louder than anything else. One of my very best friends in Cuba is an internationally acclaimed, visual artist who has no fear of expressing his dislike for the Cuban Government in word or in artwork and has been doing it since the 90’s, yet there have been no reprisals for him or for a fair-sized nucleus of “dissident” visual artists who continue to show in Cuba and overseas. Neither has the screaming old lady nor the people in the house next to the military base. Are they on “lists”? I don’t know, but are you in 1, 2, 3, maybe more in the USA? I searched under Government Lists in the Compu but got nowhere, but I know I am in several…

  • No, not just Katrina where the contempt your government has for its citizens of Color clearly showed in the lateness and inadequacy of the Emergency response and the flimsy dikes protecting the poor, Black wards of the city, but in the crime-ridden life of most people of color and many whites, all of them poor have to endure everywhere in the USA. Busted for being “Colored” and/or Poor under any excuse, denied affordable and adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, health care, good education, jobs and opportunities. There is no redress for poor folks in the USA, Moses. They burn in cheaply wired trailers everyday, their homes are burglarized, invaded or sprayed with bullets regularly, their mortgages are canceled at the first possible instance, they can incur life-savings busting medical bills any day and none of this happens in Cuba. But a house falls in Havana and you want to make this some sort of proof of what? Last year an important I-5 bridge fell in Washington State, what are we to make of that?

  • Words matter. What you should say which more accurately reflects the US policy towards Cuba is that the US rejects trade with Cuba while funding civil society projects which promote democracy. Describing our Cuban policy as an “attack” is what makes no sense.

  • That makes no sense and you make no sense trying to gain some sort of advantage from twisting my words, under attack did not mean literally “under attack” as in “Shock and Awe”, we know what you are capable of as proven by Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, carpet bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong, etc… We were under attack by the USA literally in Grenada, and we are still Under Attack Economically by the Blockade, and this is what I meant.

  • I was actually referring to Cuban-Americans, Carlyle, not you when I said “cry-babies”, you are just a dedicated, rank and file propagandist, I hope you have a good pension plan.
    We, as I use it, is the contrary of the “Royal” sense of employment; We are the Cuban People, united behind our Government to confront you or anybody else who attempts to misrepresent, malign, demonize or otherwise slander our Revolution. You simply accuse me of that in a desperate attempt to confuse and demean, shift the focus to the personal and stay away from the debate as you know you just can’t win otherwise. It doesn’t work, MacD.
    I was a part of the Revolution before the fall of Batista and sold 26 of July bonds at my Judo and my Boxing Club. Our high school class walked out in protest of the torture-murder of 7 young men found by the roadside with 4 inch spikes driven into their eyes by Batista’s henchmen and during the 1958 General Strike in support of Fidel. My family hid two wounded barbudos from Che’s troop in our farm as they crossed Camagüey Province.
    I was part of the Revolution after the Victory, working as a volunteer in the Campaign to Alphabetize the illiterate with my two cousins; we also did guard duty at “La Tasajera”, the salt beef and sausage factory after a counterrevolutionary arson attempt.
    Since I left the Island, I’ve been doing everything I possibly can to help my People from anywhere I have been ever since; helping out with local issues when necessary.. Cuba marches forward and you just can’t stand that
    So then my claim, and my aim on you, are both true. Even this personal diatribe of yours is utterly false and You did not even attempt to deal with all the issues I brought up in the writ you are replying to, merely a personal attack…Tsk, tsk, how sad, how cheap, how Carlyle can you get. Yet Cuba marches forward and you just can’t stand that!!!

  • Fez, Gomezz is a resident of Canada but has a desire to be one of the reigning clique of Castro family regime supporters. He thinks that if he returned to Cuba he would be able to afford a house, car, Internet and servant to pander to his wants and needs. It is a consequence of his superiority complex and active schizophrenia.
    You will note that he repetitively refers to a supposed Master’s Degree in Cuban Studies without revealing which University granted him that supposed distinction. Part of his study however apparently included anal cleansing hence his fascination with toilet paper – which he regards as superfluous.

  • Let us all be thankful that Fidel is One of a Kind!
    One is more than enough!

  • If those of us who think that you have kissed the Blarney Stone on behalf of the Castroi regime family are “crybabies” it is with justification. We are not pursuing as you do self-justification as a wish-to-be privileged resident of Havana with Internet, car and servant and desire to mingle with those possessing power and control.
    We do cry, we cry for the oppressed people of Cuba, for whom you care naught – as demonstrated by you repetitively in these columns.
    As a Castro family regime leech you demonstrate support for that which is worst in Cuba, but which satisfies your lust for superiority. Your use of the Royal “We” would be laughable if it was not an obvious reflection of schizophrenia a condition which has become apparent as your nationality varies from day to day.
    Your claim to have been part of every action taken prior to, during and after the revolution is obviously a reflection of your conceit rather than that of reality.
    You constantly seek recognition and approval. It doesn’t work!
    The current plight of the people of Cuba is a consequence of the actions of the Castro family regime, not Gomezz. WE know!

  • Not to the thousands of Cubans denied equal treatment under the law owed to their political or religious beliefs that did not conform to the Castro PCC.

  • Under attack? If you think that Cuba is under US attack, you should talk to the folks in Baghdad who witnessed the “Shock and Awe” of the US military. Cuba operations get $20 million a year. Disneyland spends more than that on its fireworks. Just admit, like most armchair Bolsheviks, you talk the socialist talk then walk like a capitalist.

  • You are really equating the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, a once in every 200 years weather event to the daily issues Cubans face caused by the totalitarian Castro dictatorship? That’s a reach. I have NEVER said the US is perfect. But at least when problems arise, as they often do, there exist a legal means of redress for common citizens to address grievances. In Cuba, common folks simply bend over and bite the pillow.

  • This is grandstanding on a major scale, worthy of a Church Sermon. We are born naked and hungry and these Freedoms I mentioned are denied to many millions of USA citizens today without need because you are the richest country in the world and can well afford it. And these Freedoms which Cubans don’t have, are being denied by the hostilities of the USA. A building falls in Havana and kills a woman, compare to New Orleans drowning during Katrina because the Government did not reinforce the dikes/levies and… How many people died? and…Who were they?
    This is why I think you are seriously obsessed, unbalanced and can’t see that everything you accuse our Government in Cuba of doing is the responsibility of the good ol’ USA, and can’t see these injustices happening many many times over in the country, the USA, you want us to imitate, particularly to People of Color.

  • You know Moses, it’s always easier to be whatever in a place that is not under attack by the USA, no matter what you are or who you support, so pleazze, Drop the Dead Donkey!

  • This is nothing but pure conjecture on your part.

  • Hahaha Cuban Studies, entoncé eres un cubanologo? Por favor la vida, la verdá que lo que uno tiene que leer aquí es de pinga el caso. Yo soy cubano tengo 26 años y me fuí de Cuba a los 23, qué cuento me vas a meter tú a mi chico anda! Deja la muela esa. Hipocrita!

  • ….oh and by the way. Didn’t you get the memo from Raul? You’re not supposed to call Cubans living in the US gusanos, after all its our billions in remitances that keeps the failed government in Cuba afloat. A government that has always lived off the handouts of others; USSR, Venezuela, And Cuban Gusanos like me living fat in Miami. While in Cuba you cant get a glass of milk to save your life. And that speaks louder than all the drivel you just wrote! Hahahaha

  • What???? That’s a completely false statement. Maybe they don’t use the words “human rights” but every time a Cuban strokes their chin to imply Fidel or pull at the corner of their eyes to say “La Chinita” or Raul because they are afraid to say those names aloud in a critical way, they are making a statement about their HUMAN RIGHT to speak freely.

  • You have lived outside of Cuba for more years than you lived in Cuba. It is far easier to support the Castro revolution when you don’t have to live under it.

  • In totalitarian regimes, including Castros’ Cuba, oppression in the name of “maintaining vigilance” is a common excuse. The freedoms you hope for Cuba are freedoms hoped for by all civilized peoples. Like most totalitarians, you seem to believe that these are freedoms to be given by government to its people. Wrong. We are born with these freedoms and government’s role is to protect these freedoms from those forces who would take them away.I agree with you that Cubans should choose their own future. The difference between you and I is that I hope to hasten the day that Cubans can exercise that choice.

  • Once you invoke “Human Nature”, all bets are off. Then you talk generalities: “Dictators like the Castros…” do this and that. In the very hilariously eloquent words of Mark Twain “No generality is worth a Damn!”. Besides all that, Fidel is One of a Kind and will go down in History as such; and that is what has kept him alive, our Revolution alive and our country independent from the USA for 56 years.
    Yes, I believe there will eventually be “Freedom of Speech” in terms of a independent press, but first I want to see “Freedom from Hunger, Homelessness or Inadequate Housing, Curable or Preventable Diseases, Crime and Unemployment” for these have a lot more meaning for our population than some USA financed, yellow-press rag with lots of pictures in the front page denouncing the “criminal” lack of toilet paper in Marianao. I got my priorities straight!

    Now, you are right about “Democracy coming in many shapes and sizes”, maybe Cuba will become a “Socialist-Democratic” country, but whatever WE become, it will be our own choosing, not Moses’, Obama’s or Trump’s.
    Yes, the hostilities from the USA which I have already listed many times and of which the Blockade is but a part of, are responsible in two ways.
    1) No doubt vigilance had to be maintained extremely high, many were the recorded, terrorist attacks in and outside of Cuba perpetrated by the CIA and Cuban-Americans to have warranted it.
    2) The USA and Cuba being each other’s “bogey man” gave both governments all the excuse and pretext needed to curtail its citizens rights and freedoms and exert more control over the population. ALL governments want more and more control, regardless of what they call themselves…Did I get them all, Moses?

  • That verily applies to you, I am Cuban to the core, but are you? I have a Master’s Degree in Cuban Studies and, having lived right through it all and seen it from the very onset of the Revolution (early “Baby Boomer”), I know who WE Cubans are and what Cuba is; so what did you mean by “ourselves”, Cuban Americans? That I am not, thank you!

  • Again, you have absolutely NOTHING TO SAY: WE put Fidel in POWER, got that gusanito, fighting alongside him, selling bonds for his forces, hiding revolutionaries, caring for the wounded, passing leaflets, collecting medicine and arms and all the time risking terrible tortures, rape and death if caught by Batista. WE FOUGHT to repel the CIA invasion, WE Stood Up with Fidel when it was necessary time and time again. You just RAN, a real act of bravery: Echaron un Pie, más nada.
    That is why I have 0 respect for all of you, if you had one ounce of cojones you would had stayed and organized the Resistance like WE did during Batista, not just 3-4 dozen women dressed in white marching around whenever a foreign camera crew is around. Where is their public support? How come there is no such thing in any other city, no spontaneous demonstrations, no public outrage, no nothing. And don’t give me any BS about Cuban jails full of dissidents. The international rates of incarceration per capita reach its highest levels where you are, the good ol’ USA.
    You guys are just a bunch of crybabies, Cuban Americans living fat in Miami decrying the “criminal” lack of toilet paper in Cuba as proof of Castro’s Tyranny and calling limited access to the Internet “electronic warfare”. If it were so, then anyone who can’t afford Internet service in the USA would automatically be under “electronic attack” unless they can pay, just like the Mafia’s “protection racket…hum…

  • The only way to display contempt for Mr. Goodrich’s ignorance of the reality of life in Cuba for the Cuban’s is to not respond to his continuous prattle about state socialism et al. His statements are without basis as he has never set foot in Cuba and is unlikely so to do.

  • That Gordon is a ridiculous unsupported statement. I know dozens of Cubans who complain about the Castro family regimes failure to comply with human rights.

  • Not once is the past 23 years has a Cuban complained about their human rights – lots of other complaints !!!

  • Apparently you know more about our country than ourselves. People only tend to see what they want to see.

  • “We Cubans have the right to determine what our government is going to be” ….and since when have Cubans had that right? Certainly not under the Castros

  • She may not have been arrested but if the CDR on her block heard about this incident, a note was made in her file. When the shouting woman’s applies for admission to the same Havana U, regardless of his grades and aptitude to excel, his application is denied. Fidel, himself, said “University is for revolutionaries”.

  • You seem to believe that things will “lighten up” once the embargo is lifted. But history and human nature says otherwise. Dictators like the Castros create these straw men to justify their repressive tactics. But do you really think that there will be freedom of speech and an independent press once the embargo is lifted? Do you really believe Cubans are not free only because of US pressure? I don’t expect Cubans to adopt a US-style democratic system. But democracy comes in many shapes and sizes. Cuba should be free to create the system that works for them. As long as the Castros are in charge, this will not happen, even without an embargo.

  • What about a woman shouting, Cuban Loud, from a second story balcony on a busy street one block from the Steps of Havana U while filling buckets with water from a hose rolled to her by pulley from the roof across the street:
    “This is what we get after 50 years of Socialism…SHIT!”
    Nothing happened, people on the street looked amused, one guy did the Crazy hand sign and that was it.

  • Yes, and pay reparations too, we can throw the confiscated property in and put some pencilnecks on the job…
    We Cubans have the right to determine what our government is going to be; as I said before, USA style “Democracy” is a sham inside and outside the USA, where the People are told their votes count but the power is always in the hands of the very rich. Yet, we do not tell the USA how to govern themselves and that is exactly what we expect, if there is going to be a change it must come from the People without foreign interference. That is the definition of Sovereignty.
    As soon as the reasons, the hostilities from the USA, for a high state of vigilance and police control disappear, the whole place will definitely lighten-up and loosen out, because that is the way we are when not being threatened.

  • Everything you wrote is more or less true. It’s what you don’t want to write about or even admit out loud that continues to justify the embargo. In those public arguments that you claim to have participated in or overheard, I am betting that NO ONE dared to say “FU*K FIDEL CASTRO! “, did they? You know why? Because that is a serious crime in Cuba. When American tourists learn that while buildings continue to collapse and kill innocent Cuban children, the Cuban military garners a greater share of the Cuban budget than Canada and Mexico combined they will be less sympathetic than you think. I share your rush to see the US embargo lifted. The difference between us is that I would like to see Cubans enjoy the same freedoms of the press and speech that you have in Canada and I enjoy here in the US. I would like my wife to be able to vote for her choice of Cuban legislator based upon their views and political party. Finally, Cubans deserve the same choices in the marketplace that you and I take for granted. You don’t seem to care about any of these freedoms for your fellow Cubans. You want the US to lift the embargo with no strings attached.

  • USA citizens will come and see that all the propaganda into which their government has poured millions of their tax-payer’s dollars is simply false; they will meet our citizens freely on the streets of any city or town and exchange their views openly. This is what I have experienced on all my trips to the Island. I have been involved in several prolonged and at times heated political discussions with “dissidents” in all kinds of public places from the outside porches in residences, one next to a Coastal Defense Army installation, to the Bodeguita del Medio, the beach at Santa María, the Koli Hotel bar, the piano bar across from the Cohiba Hotel, the Callejón de Hamel, el Parque Central, across from the Hotel Inglaterra plus countless parties; and that is in Havana alone. No one ever bothered us, no cops came and nothing came of it.
    Churches in Cuba close because there are not enough paying parishioners to pay for the priest and the upkeep; priests who brake the law are dealt with as any other person by either jail/fine, deportation to their country of origin or both. Scandals of Catholic priests abusing children which have been so numerous world-wide are unheard of in Cuba because it’s not tolerated.
    When the USA tourists realize that the poverty they see in Cuba is the direct result of their government’s actions, they will want to right this Wrong and pressure their government to bring down the Blockade once and for all; and when the USA companies realize the worth of the Cuban market, some already have, they will be putting real pressure on their lobbyists to convince Congress to: Drop the Dead Donkey…
    Hey MacD, check out the opening scene of “Un Chien Andaluz”, the ~1928 film by Salvador Dalí and André Breton (Buñuel might have been involved also) for a good look at the Proverbial Dead Donkey in the full Gomezzian meaning of the image.

    (Hint for the thick of mind: piano = bandwagon…)

  • What deep thinking are you talking about?

    Cuba ranks 62nd out of 197 countries on the list of the worst human rights abusers in 2010.

    The top offender amongst national governments killing its own population by execution is China, China’s human rights activists often face imprisonment, detention, torture, commitment to psychiatric facilities, house arrest, and intimidation.

    There may be little reason to believe at this point opening relations with Cuba will dramatically improve their human rights record but there is even less reason to think that seeking to isolate ONE THIRD OF HE WORLD’S COUNTRIES for the way they treat their citizens is a sensible foreign policy

    So why do we have a problem trading with Cuba and not China.

    Your words “Donald Trump and also just because its trendy to do so and not because of any deep thinking about the issues involved” About the trendy part, it has nothing to do with being trendy, it is just common sense to end something that has been going on for selfish reasons of a minority group. Although I don’t believe I will vote for Donald Trump, at least he has the guts to say what is on many peoples minds — The silent majority in the United States is finally fed up with the crap of “politically correct” and the minority dictating U.S. policy on how this country is run.

  • Since 1993 i have visited Cuba 89 times on research and do not see the problems that John Goodrich statesI

  • As your version of the truth is known there will also be a greater awareness of the Civil and Human rights violations perpetrated by the Castro regime. Americans will learn of UMAP camps, and the closing of churches and banishing of priests. Americans will learn that it is still a crime on the books that will get you locked up for a long time to simply speak out against Fidel or Raul in public. As this information and so much else gets out about the repressive acts of the Castro regime, Americans will give pause to the seemingly inevitable March toward normalization.

  • I live in south Florida and get the local daily newspaper .
    Since the beginning of the normalization process and the opening of travel to Cuba for US citizens, the newspaper has been carrying about an article a day and sometimes three articles in a day on the prospects for travel, trade and future developments like the new huge container port in Mariel which will be able to handle the huge ships coming through the newly widened Panama Canal.
    Normalization and the end of the crippling embargo is in large favor with the U.S. public and that includes the majority of Florida residents and that also includes those who came to Florida from revolutionary Cuba.
    As the truth about Cuba’s brutal treatment at the hands of their government slowly becomes known to the U.S. public, that pressure to normalize, already accelerating greatly ,will skyrocket as even know-nothing Americans jump on board the Cuban normalization bandwagon just as they have in supporting Donald Trump and also just because its trendy to do so and not because of any deep thinking about the issues involved

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