Cuba through the Looking Glass of the Cold War

By Courtney Parker*

cuba-4HAVANA TIMES — The eyes on the life size replica of Che Guevera in the Museum of the Revolution in Old Havana, Cuba seem to follow you around the room – not that I was prone to move around much. Something about the artificial gaze seemed very much alive; I remained transfixed in front of it much longer than the others in our group. The remaining members of our ‘people to people’ tour moved through the exhibit at a more touristy pace, marveling here and there but remaining, for the most part, appropriately detached from what they saw.

The museum had a quality of timelessness. The artifacts were well preserved; the bullet holes scattered about the marble surfaces contributed as much to the larger narrative as any of the carefully curated exhibits.

Some years back I had also been entranced by the film – based on the writings of a young Che Guevara – ‘Motorcycle Diaries’. Something deep inside of me was stirred by the story of this young, privileged Argentinian medical student who took off on a journey through South America’s most impoverished regions and was forever – and radically – changed by what he saw.

I wept during the scene where he swam across the river to join the lepers on the other side. I was emboldened by his revelations about an indigenous political party…a political revolution…of justice and unity. Growing up immersed in United States Cold War propaganda, of course, I knew that his journey had taken an extremist, violent, and militant turn in his later years, but I connected with the young Che, the idealist, a man after my own impractically idealist heart –  perhaps in the same way many young US idealists blindly connect with our own slave owning, Native American killing, founding fathers of ‘liberty and democracy’.

The truth is, I came to forget much about Guevera’s story. And by the time I watched it again years later, I had traveled through much of Latin America myself. Two life-changing trips to Costa Rica, a dash of Panama and Mexico, and then deeper journeys documenting human rights crises in Guatemala, Colombia, and later, Nicaragua. I had likewise been transformed by my travels. A dyed in the wool idealist, I entered academia – not medical school, but health science – determined to make a difference. I did what Che did, but backwards and with much less charisma and flair.

cuba-5When I initially returned from my trip to Cuba, I wrote an op-ed disavowing the embargo. And from there on, my claws would inevitably come out whenever anyone criticized Cuba – be it Che, Fidel, communism or socialism – and I was always chomping at the bit to remind everyone of the United States’ own human rights blind spots.

By the time of Obama’s famous visit earlier this year, I had mellowed out a bit. I knew that Cuba had created a stellar medical, humanitarian and public health system in the vacuum of capitalist industry but I also knew that their ability to obtain necessary supplies to operate at peak function was dampened by limits on free trade. It saddened me to imagine the antique cars disappearing from Old Havana one by one, as their caretakers might potentially lose some of the drive to continue their meticulous upkeep in the grips of a more ‘free’ market; yet, I held faith in the Cuban people as being more than capable stewards of their own culture, in any new paradigm that emerged.

I began to forgive my own country for its own shortcomings after a tumultuous journey through the lesser known conflict zone of Muskitia, Nicaragua in February of this year. It was then I came face to face with the latent potential for brutality, propaganda, manipulation and suppression that could emerge on the other side of this antiquated geopolitical binary of capitalism vs. socialism. After I was attacked in the Sandinista media, and later in Telesur, for reporting on Indigenous rights – and ironically, an Indigenous political party like a young Guevera had once apparently envisioned –  I was pretty much done being a Bolivarian leftist state apologist. This does not mean, however, that I am now a capitalist state apologist. In all honesty, I don’t see any moral high ground in either system right now, as both – at the international level – continue down the destructive and unsustainable paths of extractivism.

Disappointed as I was by the Sandinistas, I never lost my love for Cuba. And though I worry Nicaragua is spiraling backwards in terms of progress, with Ortega’s enthusiastic embrace of authoritarian neoliberalism, I see Cuba doing something wholly different. In Cuba, I see a companero of Los Estados Unidos, emerging hand in hand with us from a long, outdated war – moving past the false dichotomy that kept us divided for so long. Our healthcare and public health crises need the mentorship of Cuba’s leadership. And it is time we shared our material and medicinal wealth in return.

cuba-7I am excited about a new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. I believe it is time to move past the false dichotomy of capitalism vs. socialism. I believe we can build relationships based on fair trade and mutual respect. I believe we can work towards universal standards of human rights while still respecting national sovereignty. Values such as: freedom of the press, the right to healthcare, the collective demand for corporate accountability, and respect for the environment and the rights of all humans are universal. And, I believe that through the mutual embrace of these values, we can heal the wounds of the past, one relationship at a time.

The importance of a truly independent media outlet such as Havana Times is something I have come to appreciate beyond measure. The balanced reporting and views represented in HT – as other media outlets are becoming more and more polarized – is a model for the world to notice.

As a PhD candidate in public health, I am preparing to write a thesis on Latin American botanicas and immigrant health. Right now, where I live in the southeastern United States, we have a large Latino/a immigrant population who experience a lot of barriers towards accessing mainstream health services. Botanicas – traditional Latin American venues of holistic healing — have been emerging to fill this vacuum, even as our government attempts to expand healthcare options to marginalized groups overall.

It is no secret that the United States has long been in the grips of a systemic healthcare crisis. We are currently extremely divided, as a nation, on how to move forward. We seem to be taking the long road towards the universal health coverage that Cuba has long enjoyed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has outlined some goals to guide all nations towards more innovative and integrative medical and health service models in their ‘Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023’. When I was in Cuba, I noticed that even among the cutting edge, modern medical research taking place, there was still present an enormous respect for more traditional and natural types of remedies. Because of this, I would like to invite any Cuban with expertise, experience or interest to contact me at [email protected] if you can or would be inclined to offer some perspective or information about this type of integrative medicine and the role it plays in Cuba. I am interested in short term and long term research collaborations.

In the meantime, I would encourage everyone to continue supporting Havana Times and independent journalism. Let us look to a future where we are all able to grow and prosper beyond the outmoded divisions of the past.
*Courtney Parker, MNPO is a freelance journalist and PhD candidate in Health Promotion and Behavior at the University of Georgia College of Public Health.

27 thoughts on “Cuba through the Looking Glass of the Cold War

  • Sorry, you don’t get the last word just yet. The only thing sincere about your attempt to heal a decades long divide between cultures was your sincere betrayal of the very economic and political system that has afforded you the freedom to travel and study the far less fortunate. Your backstabbing comments regarding the US healthcare system while largely ignoring the failings of the Cuban system bespeak of your political biases. Your comments are far from neutral. Methinks your hypersensitive reaction to my almost tongue-in-cheek remark about “white guilt” confirms my guess. Finally, and most sincerely, I was not attempting to discredit your self-described traumatic experience. I apologize if you took my comment as discrediting. Word to the wise, when you open your remarks with a list of your credentials as if to imply that what follows is the gospel because a PhD said so, you may find that more humble PhDs, lawyers, professional engineers, waiters, and bus drivers are more likely to pounce. Let the weight of your remarks qualify your point. You never know who else has the sheepskin. By the way, horrible, horrible person? Really?

  • I have not had one single person attempt to engage in an actual discussion in this comment feed — only unfounded attacks — so I have had no other course of action but to defend myself. Believe me, I would have chosen otherwise had it been left up to me. You are *still* reducing me to a few pictures that were taken in the rare downtime we had. Holy cow. Stretch your mind a little bit and stop trying to reduce a human being to a singular stereotype to project all of your anger onto.

  • I attempted to reply to this last night but it may not have worked on my phone. In a nutshell, you are speaking to me as if I am defending Castro when I am not. I am merely trying to build bridges between the public health workers and researchers between two cultures; I have said nothing in defense of the state, nor do I intend to…You are indeed projecting this onto me because you apparently have nothing better to do than shadow box with an imaginary Castro supporter on the internet. I was in Cuba long enough to know that he does indeed still have some supporters, so you may kindly go find one to debate and leave me out of it.

    I re-read my responses several times and am quite okay with my behavior. You don’t get to attack someone’s education and then attack them again for merely defending it. That is just the height of ridiculousness and hypocrisy. And calling someone aggressive for merely defending themselves? That’s called gaslighting.

    And yes, I do view capitalism and socialism as a false dichotomy and what Castro, you, or anyone else thinks does not debase this.

    And the U.S. is indeed in the grips of a healthcare crisis. There is no debate about this between either political party here, the only debate is how to address it. Sorry this news hasn’t made it to you yet.

    You have made so many false accusations (projections) it is hard to even know where to begin. I diplomatically called Guevera an impractical idealist who took an extremist, violent and militant turn. I don’t know what religion you practice but I’ve never heard anyone talk about a deity in that way.

    And you can’t make a blanket statement about ‘natural medicine’. There are a number of plants that have enormous healing powers and a number of ‘evidence-based medicines’ which have turned out to be extremely dangerous (sometimes due to the evidence being derived merely from short term trials with no potential for longitudinal study.) We are about to enter a post-antibiotic era, and the price of pharmaceuticals is skyrocketing around the world. Please go read about the WHO’s Traditional Medicine program, or poke around PubMed a bit for actual studies on natural medicines that weren’t sponsored directly or indirectly by those invested in ‘Big Pharma’.

    Now please back off with your generalizations and accusations. This is getting extremely boring.

  • Moses, you need to step….off. You don’t get to tell another human being what their ideology is. Living in a capitalist society is not the same as being a capitalist. There is a capitalist class, and a working class. A capitalist is one who profits off of the working class by investing capital. It would be more apt to say that I live in a consumerist society and am unavoidably a consumer. You also don’t get to reduce someone to their race — 50% or otherwise. You also don’t get to discredit one of the most traumatic experiences of my entire life and expect to receive one iota of respect in return. You are a horrible, horrible person. And you need to step away from the computer screen and look in a mirror for awhile instead. I wrote a diplomatic article attempting to build a bridge between two cultures by holding up instances where there is room for collaboration. You have done nothing but attack a sincere attempt to heal a decades long divide between cultures — and I’m not talking about politics or ‘the state’. I’m talking to, and about, the people: the public health workers, the medical workers, the teachers who are doing their best with what they have. Now kindly never attempt to communicate with me again.

  • No I didn’t just look at the photos, actions speak louder than words, & your pictures paint quite a picture of actions you took while on the Island.

    You blame the picture on “others” who took pictures, and you don’t look like you were uncooperative. & who submitted the photos to HT in the first place.

    I have done my homework, & it wasn’t in a classroom, it was actually out in the real world.

    Reading all your responses, it seems that it is you who is attacking everyone.

  • That should be your 1st clue. The topic of the article YOU submitted, was never your education, however you consistently interject that into the conversation.
    2nd clue: look at all the responses you are getting from people who are much more knowledgeable on Cuban issues than you, despite your PhD. Y

    You may have exposed yourself to a wide spectrum of ideas elsewhere in the world, but it is very obvious from your responses that you didn’t get much in tune with life in Cuba.

  • “Entirely concocted of white guilt” is a stretch. But, 50% is probably on target. And that whole “neither commie nor capitalist” is also laughable. If you live in the United States, you are a capitalist. Perhaps not by choice but that is how you live. The backroom abortion story is a surprise and a tad unbelievable. When did this happen, 1953? There wasn’t a Planned Parenthood in your part of Mississippi? Nonetheless, I will go with it. So, the line forms to the left in Cuba for people who live in the 4 states in the US where emergency abortion clinics are more than say 2 hours drive apart. On this you are basing your high praise of Cuban health care? CJ, you sound like a nice lady and you probably have a good soft heart. It would have been closer to the truth if you had said something like Cuba’s health care delivery system is the best amoung poor third world and developing countries and left it at that.

  • Ms Parker,

    I think you are projecting. Take a step back and read your responses to everybody. Your tone is aggressive and insulting.

    Where I live and where I studied is irrelevant. Argument by authority, e.g. referring to your PhD ABD, is not convincing. Your arguments must stand or fall on the facts and reasoning you present.

    When you open your essay with a near religious praise of that sociopathic killer, Che Guevara, you are going to rub a lot of people the wrong way.

    You attribute the problems in Cuba’s medical system to the US embargo. Helms-Burton does not prevent Cuba from importing aspirin or bandages from Canada or Europe. I don’t see how the US embargo is in anyway responsible for the 26 psychiatric patients who were starved to death at Mazorro hospital. The corruption and lack of accountability, which is a hallmark of the Castro regime, is to blame.

    The belief in herbal remedies is unfounded by medical science. Many modern medicines have been derived from plants, but raw herbs are crude at best, often useless or even harmful.

    The US is not in the grip of a systemic healthcare crisis. There are problems in access to healthcare for the poor, rising costs, and the looming collapse of the ill-conceived ObamaCare program. Yet, the US healthcare system continues to lead the world in medical advances and high quality care. What problems the US does have cannot be helped with what you describe as “the mentorship of Cuba’s leadership”.

    You may view the choice between capitalism and socialism as a false dichotomy, but the Castro regime does not. They continue to use the slogan, “Socialismo o Muerte!” and no doubt you saw it on the propaganda walls and billboards in Cuba. There is also a significant difference of opinion about what exactly is meant by the term “socialism”. In my country, Canada, most people think of socialism as social-democracy. In Cuba, their form of socialism is a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.

    I agree with your call for corporate accountability. In Cuba, the largest corporation is GAESA, owned by the Cuban military and accountable Raul Castro’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas. I pray one day the Generals who rule over Cuba will be held accountable to the Cuban people.

  • I might actually respect any actual counterpoints offered in this conversation if they weren’t constantly framed as vicious attacks on me, on a personal level. It just makes you all seem like you have ulterior motives and are coming from a more visceral then logical place. In fact, I obviously represent something to you that I couldn’t possibly ever live up to. Please remember that there is another human being here, who merely wanted to celebrate the strengths and critique the weaknesses of both healthcare paradigms and encourage collaborations to the benefit of all. And you are making this into something that it is not. Is this just the only game you know how to play? Do you not have anything else to do?

  • And, what if you needed a life-saving abortion? Where the child had no chance of living but carrying it was a huge, enormous risk to your own life. But none of the hospitals or healthcare centers in your community would treat you, even in the case that you had life-threatening complications during the surgery that partially took place in a cheap hotel room, the rest taking place in a cheap building with armed guards outside. This happened to me here in the United States, this would not have happened in Cuba. So there is one example, that escaped you’re all-knowingness. And now that we have in fact established that your opinions are not in fact infallible, you may go ahead and assume there are plenty of other instances where this could also be the case. And reducing my experience, someone you know nothing about, as being entirely concocted of white guilt is a racist ad hominem attack. I’m sorry if this concept is new to you.

  • You are making a lot of assumptions about me that are untrue. Did you even read my article? I explicitly touched on the fact that the system suffered from a lack of medical supplies and material goods. Apparently all you did was look at the pictures like a five-year-old. I made very explicit points that there was more to Cuba and Che than the movie ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ and in fact that was a huge point, I can’t understand for the life of me how you missed it. Again, you obviously did not read this. Go do your homework before you raise your hand again in class, please. Havana Times chose these pictures. I am not one to take a bunch of pictures of myself posing with people here and there, so these all came from other people who happen to take pictures of me while we were out and about. Sorry you didn’t get your daily dose of poverty porn. And about your buddy…Assuming that my experience there was entirely concocted by white guilt, is a racist ad hominem attack. This is getting pathetic. Is this what you spend your time doing? Attacking people you don’t know anything about, but feign to know everything about, on the Internet? Well, you’re just losing credibility by the second.

  • Oh please, at no point have I acted like I knew everything merely by attempting to defend my own education which was viciously and repeatedly attacked. I have read plenty of opposing viewpoints, in fact there are many more critiques available of Cuba then otherwise — just look at the comment feed here; people bashing Cuba at every turn is the norm. No one here is saying anything remotely new or profound so stop circling up and patting each other on the backs. I am not the one being arrogant here and trying to paint a well-meaning person trying to establish diplomatic ties as a stupid fool. Get a grip. If you are going to assume that I haven’t encountered and exposed myself to a wide spectrum of ideas, then you are in fact the one being arrogant. And you also happen to be wrong.

  • Your measured response regarding your choice between a US hospital and a Cuban hospital is disingenuous. Someone with your background in Healthcare would be particularly sensitive to the gross differences in the health care delivery systems of the two countries. On the ground, not driven by Castro propaganda, there are NO circumstances where you would choose Cuban health care. There is nothing in the treatment you would receive in a Cuban hospital that is not available in a US facility. Nothing. By the way, most of the time I close a comment with a racist ad-hominem attack. Keen observation.

  • Parker, your arrogance is pathetic. Just because you have a PhD it doesn’t give you knowledge of all things in life. Keep reading your journals and god forbid you could learn anything by reading the articles about life in Cuba. Yes there are many informative clips on YouTube about Cuba (including poets, writers, doctors & activists) and oh but wait, that is beneath you. That’s right you already know it all, I forgot you have a PhD. 🙂

  • The point was I was trying to make without getting in your face, was that there are a lot more to issues than what you gathered in your short tourist trip out there. The point that you seemed to have missed, is that there is lot more to the story than the Motorcycle Diaries that made you “weep,” And I was trying to give you some clues as to other documentary movies that might help you get the big picture here. There is lot more to Che than you find in movies.

    Quite honestly, from the pictures you posted, it doesn’t appear that you had much to do with a cross section of groups and individuals, but only those who cater to tourists. Let me take a wild guess, all these contacts you had with these individuals were arranged through your tour guide, right? You did what a majority of first time tourist do, and you came to the conclusion that Cuba has a “stellar medical health system?!!!” And just how did you come to that conclusion? You obviously don’t have any family members living there that beg for medicine everytime visitors come from the U.S.

    You say that “I took a bus and watched a different movie” and that’s “cute?” Of course in your mind that might be cute, but if you ever visit Cube again, get away from tour guides and try to find out what life is like for the local Cubans (majority of whom don’t live in Havana).

    So that your idealist mind won’t get confused again, my point was this “GET A CLUE.”

    & how was Moses’ reply a “racist?”!!!!!!! Both Moses and Griffin have extensive knowledge of Cuba, and even if you don’t agree with their comments, they are a lot more knowledgeable on Cuban issues than you have gathered in your 2 weeks there.

  • Are you familiar with the Helms-Burton Act? There are ways the U.S. has limited trade with other countries as well. And I looked at some of your articles, nothing I haven’t seen before…but I also feel I shouldn’t be assigned a reading list to have a conversation with some random stranger who obviously just wants to attack me. You failed to answer my question of how and from where you have managed to so thoroughly explore all sides of this issue and subsequently hone in on such a rigid and narrow perspective. Until you address this, you have no grounds to expect anyone to believe you ‘logically’ assumed anything about me. It’s all coming across pretty visceral, to be honest. I’m not defending Castro. Do you know how to have a conversation with someone who neither wholly agrees or wholly disagrees with you? Cuba has indeed made some advancements, and also has some serious problems. The U.S. has strengths and weaknesses as well. Why so persistently attack someone who wants to help bridge the strengths of each for the betterment of all? What is your motivation here? And again, where are you from and through what resources have you managed to so thoroughly weigh all sides and come out so narrow minded? Knowing this might help this conversation actually move forward, but I’m not sure that is what you actually want. You seem bent on merely insulting me and denying any credit to Cuba’s medical and health workers and scientists, all issues with the government aside. You are coming across as unduly myopic. If you formed your entirety of opinion on that list of links, it is probably not I who needs to pursue more education. What is your educational background, btw?

  • I am sorry for your situation. Certainly there are many challenges in accessing health care in this country that is simply unacceptable.

  • I did not assume, it was the logical conclusion to draw when you declared your refusal to read the articles I linked to which would provide a contrary view of Cuba’s healthcare system, which is not as you described above:

    “I knew that Cuba had created a stellar medical, humanitarian and public health system in the vacuum of capitalist industry but I also knew that their ability to obtain necessary supplies to operate at peak function was dampened by limits on free trade.”

    Stellar it is not.

    Cuba is free to buy medical supplies from Canada, Europe and the rest of the world. Only US maintains an embargo. Therefore, the lack of supplies in Cuban hospitals & clinics are not a consequence of the embargo. The weakness in the Cuban system is a direct result of the socialist political system the Castro regime has imposed on the Cuban people.

    Are you familiar with Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet? He was jailed for speaking out about the problems in Cuba’s medical system. That’s one of the problems: the Cuban gov’t controls information about their medical system, as they recognize it’s value as a significant propaganda tool.

  • Well, as a gringa, I can echo your feelings, but about my own country in many ways, as an individual and as a parent. I wish we could speak more in depth about specifics. I have a particularly traumatic story about how I was failed by our health system here and could have easily lost my life…Let’s just say this particular situation would not have happened to me in Cuba. Too bad we can’t talk more openly. I understand you probably have many valid points as well.

  • I’ll keep this short and sweet. As a Cuban, I have experienced the reality of the educational and medical system on the island. It is not to be recommended!

  • You’re so gracious, kind sir. Do you always open a conversation with a racist ad-hominem attack? I bet people just love you; I already do. If anyone here actually read my piece, you would note that I diplomatically asserted that Cuba’s systems suffered to operate at peak potential because of limits on trade and free enterprise. You’ve picked the wrong person to have the commie vs. capitalist argument with, because I am neither. And, to answer what you probably intended to be a rhetorical question, it actually depends on what sort of ailment I had, how much it cost to treat, and what type of insurance policy I held at the time. I’ve spent time at Johns Hopkins taking CEU hours and I had a few issues with what I saw, to be honest. A cancer center named after one of the Koch Brothers? Does it make sense for cancer research to be conducted under benefactors who are responsible for infecting our environment with immeasurable amounts of cancer-causing carcinogens? Not sure about that, personally. And that is but one problem with the capitalist model of healthcare. For you to act as if Cuba has nothing to contribute is just as misguided and ill-informed as those who act as if the U.S. has not made any advances or contributions. You are the one who needs to step away from the Kool Aid, I think…

  • Why would you assume I avoid any contrary information? I criticized weak points in both American and Cuban systems, if you actually read my article. That’s the foundation behind my desire to support combining the best aspects of both. I’m actually aware of many of the ins and outs that you describe. And I’m also aware of many more (because of where I live) horror stories from the U.S. health system(s). You are obviously just looking for a fight. That’s so sad! We could have an actual discussion. What country are you from, Griffin? I’m curious as to where you have gained such an omnipresent perspective. And you know what the thing is about peer-reviewed journals? They don’t select publications to back up pre-conceived views — like many of these news outlets that you favor — so it is obvious you didn’t gain your perspective from that angle. Where and from what sources did you gain your comprehensive expertise? I criticized and gave measured praise to both Cuba and America and yet you try to put me in some sort of box to project all of your aggression onto. Get over it and come forth with some sort of solution, and intelligent rhetoric beyond attacks, if you want to contribute anything to this discussion.

  • Thank you for your very gracious response to my comment. By all means, you should avoid any contrary information while you complete your degree on how marvellous the Cuban healthcare system is and what it can teach America.

    You certainly don’t want to know how Cuban “doctors” get about as much training as an American RN. You don’t want to hear about the two tiered system in Cuba, where the top party officials and military officers get high quality medical care while the rest of the people have to go to filthy clinics. And you certainly don’t want to know about the Cuban medical workers who get sent abroad to work for a paltry salary, separated from their families for years, watched over by state security agents lest they try to escape to the US. And by all means avoid any upsetting reports about the Mazorra psychiatric hospital where 26 patients where left to starve and freeze to death.

    Just keep reading the select journals which reinforce your preconceived views on the marvellous Cuban healthcare system and echo that back to like-minded souls.

  • Cute article CJ. I am always amused by folks who slum around around a few weeks in 3rd world tourists spots to assuage their white guilt. What gave you away you ask? The comment you make that Griffin highlights. Cuban schools and Cuban hospitals suck. They are dirty, poorly lit, poorly equipped and nothing that the US should emulate. Cuban leadership could teach us nothing. You obviously drank your share of the Castro Kool-aid. Ask yourself this, if you or a loved one were to be suddenly stricken with some possibly fatal ailment (God forbid), would the first place that comes to mind be Calixto Garcia hospital in Cuba or Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US? Jus’ sayin’.

  • I guess there’s no building diplomatic bridges without attracting some trolls. Hi sweetness. I am a PhD-ABD in health science at a top 20 public university, but by all means, school me with your articles from the Huffington Post and YouTube. Here I’ve been wasting my focus earning a doctorate and spending my time reading medical and public health journals when all I needed was you to point me in the right direction. I really don’t have the patience to wade through your clickbait, but if you want to have an actual discussion where you actually make a point — and then I agree or make a counterpoint — we can move on from there.

  • Hi Ronin,
    I was in Cuba for about 2 weeks, the entire time — an average of 12-15 hours a day, I’d say — we met with a great cross-sections of groups and individuals, and did indeed travel outside of Havana and did much mingling with the locals on our own terms. I can’t speak for people in other countries but I’d say I experienced more depth and breadth of the culture there than most people do in the U.S. living and working in the bubbles of our daily grind. Definitely more than someone who just ‘travels’ there, I’d imagine? You rode a bus and watched a different movie? That’s your point? That’s cute, thanks for chiming in. Each time I have traveled to Latin America, I almost always stay in the most impoverished regions — including a number of conflict and post-conflict zones — and come home exhausted by the amount of information I’ve absorbed. Your comment is rather confusing as to what points you actually are taking issue with in my article, so I’m not really sure how to address them. But if what you are looking for is a platform to boast of your own cinematic and geographic journeys, I guess you have made my article comment feed yours. Please let me know if you have any actual points, I’d be happy to discuss them with you!
    Cheers, Courtney

    P.S. I am a big fan of Cuba’s organic agriculture system, and have also visited a farm there, we could start the actual discussion there if you like..

  • Ms. Parker,

    I am just curious, how long did each of your visits to all these Latin American countries that you visited last? And while you were there, did you have to make a living or were you there as a tourist.

    I am not discounting your experiences by any means, I too love to visit Cuba and I have traveled across the central and western end of the Island quite extensively.

    I lived on a farm for a couple of weeks and got to to see up close what the working farmer’s lives were like. It is easy to become an idealist when you visit the tourist spots in Havana (I have been to the Museum of Revolution about 4 times), but you get a different feel for the country when you stay off the beaten path and get to see what the life of the locals is like.

    I too, am amazed by the fact that Che gave up a life of luxury and chose the path that he did. I have seen the many Che documentaries including the movie Motorcycle Diaries. One movie I recommend is “Chasing Che” by Alireza Rofougaran, a documentary about Che’s life since early childhood.

    I have travelled through several Central & South American nations and Cuba has always been my favorite place to return to. Hopefully with the lifting of the embargo and all that it will bring, the Cuba that I have come to know will stay somewhat the same as far as the culture and kindness of its people.

    I agree with Griffin’s comments, you really need to educate yourself more with how things are on the Island for it’s local population. It appears from the posted photos that you were enjoying Cuba from a tourist’s perspective. Try taking the train to travel in-between cities. It will reveal a whole different world to you.

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