By Angel Vazquez Mourenza*
HAVANA TIMES — I’d wanted to go to Cuba for a long time now, and I finally went. I would have liked to have gone a long time ago, 25 years ago for example, when the country seemed to be living better times thanks to their relationship with the Soviet Union founded on mutual interest. I decided to go now, understanding that it was now or never, given the fact that it will soon be full of McDonalds.
Even though I was trying to think positively and excuse or justify all of the negative and unpleasant things I saw, it really is hard to do so.
It is undoubtedly a beautiful country; we got a glimpse of Havana, Vinales, Trinidad, Remedios and the Cayos. We saw Centro Habana, practically in ruins, as if it had been struck by war, entire streets lifted up, magnificent buildings without doors and windows.
It’s true that the squares in Old Havana have been renovated, as well as the main streets that go off them, but when you venture a little off of these, we were back into what’s normal here, that is to say, a semi-destroyed city which has only been partially fixed up for foreign tourists.
From a social point of view, I found many similar realities to those I experienced when I traveled to Beijing, a country which doesn’t have private property and is experiencing a fierce Capitalism. I’m sure the US blockade and the disappearance of the USSR had a lot to do with Cuba’s current situation, but you can’t blame everything on external enemies. A land where a hotel bell boy earns in a day the same as a hospital surgeon would in a month isn’t a decent country.
My impression of Cuba was that it was very expensive, even for tourists, and inaccessible to Cubans who don’t work closely to foreign tourists, or don’t deal on the black market. Nonetheless, it’s surprising to see Cubans in hotels which cost 120 euros/night, or in restaurants where you spend 20 euros for a meal, which would mean 15 days of work for a university professor. There is clearly corruption and nepotism involved.
On the other hand, you can’t really expect much from a regime, where the majority of its subjects are longing to leave and head towards the enemy, and this is the feeling I went away with. I’m sure that this longing to leave the island has a lot to do with the Cuban people’s difficult prospects of survival. The only industry I saw was that which exploits tourists, and its main sector is firmly rooted in the past, without technology, working the land with plows pulled by oxen and cutting sugar cane with machetes.
Ultimately, this country, which apparently has great potential, is in desperate need of immediate change, with political reforms and in its productive system. It would be ideal for these reforms to come about from the Cuban people’s own freedom, for their own well-being, and not those which are imposed on them by whoever wants to transform it into their colony, casino or brothel.