By Martín Guevara

The Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana. Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — The pretty girl, no longer so vigorous, though still quite beautiful, slowly returns to the lap of the beloved and hated prince.

Since the discovery of America, Cuba has been the coveted bride, the treasure sought by the magnates of the time.

Back in the days when, in Tordesillas, the New World was divided into Spanish and Portuguese property, the “Pearl of the Caribbean” already enjoyed privileged treatment. There, palaces, fortresses, mansions and cities that weren’t built in the old continent were constructed. Spanish nobles moved to the island.

The proud ships loaded with the wealth extracted from the new continent passed through Cuba on their way to the metropolis. Of all the lovers the crown had in the course of centuries, Cuba was the best treated.

When it let go of the hand of the aged and impoverished Spanish crown, the Platt Amendment placed it in the firm arms of the fledgling modern magnate, the United States of America.

When this relationship grew cold, because the bride of the rich and famous decided it was going to try its luck at autonomy, when it pretended to become independent, it was once again being courted by a suitor who, though lacking in lineage, had unparalleled power.

Two years after the triumph of the revolution, without mincing its words, Fidel no longer swearing that he was fundamentally opposed to communism, beautiful Cuba became the official bride of the Soviet Union, with whom it already maintained an unofficial relationship (known by everyone in the neighborhood).

Though the land of the soviets was at the time one of the two major world powers and, in this sense, Cuba could boast of its powerful partner, the truth of the matter is that glamour and sophistication were painfully missing in that relationship. The island found itself in the brawny arms of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

For Fidel, it was enough for Moscow to promise to maintain the island, in exchange for delivering its soul at the crossroads.

When Gorbachev came to power, however, the USSR betrayed Cuba. It decided to leave it for more sophisticated and better-dressed girlfriends who had a more modern look to them, even though they were not as tasty. Cuba felt deeply offended and tried to persuade Moscow to stick with her in the times. The relationship was dying, Moscow refused, like an elderly man who wishes to devote the dying throes of its virility to a cougar who’s a thousand years younger and infinitely more vivacious.

Photo: Mona Biegstraaten
Photo: Mona Biegstraaten

The truth is that Fidel Castro did not seek the opinion of any of the millions of skeletal zombies who zigzagged along on their Chinese bicycles, skirting the swarms of thirsty mosquitoes on the island that didn’t find a single drop of blood that was worth their while under those skins, gnawed by cheap rum, bad food and the nightmare of power-cuts.

The Cuba of the Brothers Castromasov said: “Really? Well, I’m going to stand tall. Socialism or death! My people will die of hunger or lice, but they will never surrender!” Then it went out into the world in a crazy fit, as though possessed by a demon it could not keep in check, to look for a new husband. Fidel had derided the Chinese and publicly condemned them back in the day when it looked as though the Soviet Union would last forever and it was convenient to play the role of a staunch anti-Maoist. “No way!” said the Chinese in a very Chinese way.

Nevertheless, the island was already an experienced and mischievous survivor, and it had no choice but to go in search of a simple, vulgar, foul-mouthed boyfriend that could not be introduced to one’s parents. It had no other alternative, it had to find it and it had to be “well off.”

When Cuba Met Venezuela

In the sixties, seventies and eighties, Fidel Castro would have considered someone like Chavez a populist and, in the best of cases, a revisionist, an opportunistic military leader from the ranks of the traditional army that could never have embodied the possibility of serious change – an appealing ruler who was not to be taken seriously, on whom the USSR would have immediately instructed Cuba to turn its back.

The times had changed, however, and comrade Chavez became the standard-bearer of Latin America’s revolution.

All the while, the graceful palms, the sweet-smelling air, the beautiful sand and cities of Cuba cringed when they recalled they were the bride of that abomination.

Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Photo:

Cuba had nothing against Venezuela. In fact, it adored it, but not as a girlfriend, perhaps only as an afternoon fling, a friend and confidant it could speak to about trivial matters.

For the first time, the Pearl of the Caribbean knew the crushing feeling of having been something and being nothing, like a tango or a nightmare.

Then came Obama and, little by little, Cuba began winking at him. Raul Castro began to sending coded messages through his diaphanous fan. Barack got the message.

He was in need of a good hit, to use the parlance of baseball, as, lately, his noble goals weren’t exactly working out for him. Perhaps he also thought a gesture that gave some meaning to his Nobel Peace Prize would come in handy, shifting the chronology a few years here and there.

The Pope, hoping to modernize the Church up to a point, also showed a courageous attitude in uniting in holy matrimony the former lovers. Cuba has returned to her former prince and, by the looks of it, it is rekindling past passions, as it is not only beautiful but candid.

All that remains to be worked out are the terms of the pre-marital contract and the type of couple they want to be for this, their new and glamorous union, portrayed on the covers of the flashiest magazines dealing with social events around the world.

But, make no mistake: Cuba will have a proper marriage, lest the neighbors start rumors that, when the princess is in a tough spot financially, she goes out to whore around the world.

31 thoughts on “Cuba, the Pearl of the Caribbean

  • Socialist have a habit of declaring victories while all the while ignoring the facts. Buildings in Havana are collapsing every week. Record numbers of your paisanos are escaping Castro tyranny by rickety rafts every month. Everything from condoms to cooking oil are in short supply. People wait in line for hours to fill propane gas tanks and check email. Classrooms lack pencils and schoolbooks. Hospitals encourage patients to bring their own sheets and towels. Where is your victory?

  • You know you have been defeated in your quest to portray Cuba as a losing proposition and to demonize Fidel and Raúl; your feeble attempts to prove me wrong by deconstructing my answers and putting words in my mouth have come to naught; your accusations regarding my residence have already been countered and you have no more recourse.

  • Victory? Almost 20% of the population has fled or been forced to leave. More than half the population live in substandard or worse housing. The moral decay brought about by generations of institutional corruption is almost irreversible. Where is the victory? Even you dare not return to Cuba because you know you can’t live as well in the land of your birth as you do on foreign soil. Your claim of victory rings hollow and hypocritical.

  • Sorry man, but I have this thing called a life and it often gets in the way of our cat and mouse political back and forth, however, this will be brief.
    1)You can post any anecdotal experience and I can do the same ad infinitum, it’s not tenable proof of jack; anything could have happened in his post, the Brazilians might be responsible for the conditions or the remote location necessitated tent and cot. Cuban doctors that went to Pakistan after the earthquake had to do the same because there was nowhere left standing or safe to set up their clinic/treatment room and living quarters.

    2) As you have explained before, many people in Cuba make $20.86 in USD, or ~500 pesos a month, yet he makes $500 USD or ~12,500 pesos a month and that is indeed a lot of money in Cuba.
    3) The Cuban doctors that went to Pakistan told me (my anecdotal rebuttal) that their families in Cuba were sent half their salary, they got half and an stipend. They ate local bread and whatever fresh veggies were available; their meats, however mostly came out of cans but their grateful patients would provide what they could and brought chickens, apricots, garden veggies, milk and eggs. So they ended up with plenty of money to spend when they got to Lahore before coming home.
    4) I see the Sanctions from the EU vanishing, I see the USA Blockade crumbling, I see Cuba is off the list of terrorist supporting countries, I see China investing money in tourism, trade and other developments, I see Russia re-establishing strong economic ties with us, I see more and more food and medicine trade between Cuba and the USA, I see less shortages, I see more money in the hands of Cubans and I see more and more hope in Our soul that this is indeed the victory we worked so hard for.

  • No, already looks like Cancún makes no reference to the Hotel Zone in Cancún but many other parts of the City, expanding, developing and modernizing from North of the viaduct that connects the “mainland” to the island where the the Hotel Zone is, and all the way to the water. New housing, marinas and shopping centers. It is also evident all over the city itself as Mexican tourism expands. I stayed in a hotel for Mexicans and low-budget N.American or European tourists in the city itself, not far from the Viaduct and within two blocks of a totally modern, air conditioned, shopping mall complete with all the stores, food franchises, boutiques and supermarkets you’d expect to find anywhere in Canada or the USA, except right smack in the middle of a beautiful Mexican town and facing a cobbled, colonial square.
    For your information and to destroy your feeble argument about what I meant by “where the tourists don’t go”. There are tourists, Mexican and White all over the City itself, and as I explained before, the Hotel Zone is outside the City on an island, are you following me? There are tourists in the markets, budget hotels and strip malls growing all along the Viaduct in the City itself and also on the road to the airport. Where they don’t go is to the shanty town where the head of the taxi drivers union took me to meet some of his men, where the staff of the deluxe hotels in the Zone live, where the workers building the marinas and malls dwell with their families in shacks, the best of raw bricks, some even stuccoed and white-washed. Here the streets are not paved, poverty is rife, electricity dangerously rigged, running water and plumbing absent in many places and there is absolutely no reason for a tourist to be there; and that’s exactly why he took me, to see what all the wealth in Cancún is built upon. Check- Mate.

  • ….still waiting

  • I’ll get you later, Moses, just finished kicking Carlyle’s arse again and communicating didactically with IC instead of trading cannonades for a change, and have company coming soon; good night!

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