10. Parque Central, frente a la primera iglesia de Cuba

Photo Feature by Onel

HAVANA TIMES — The last part of my trip to Cuba’s east-laying provinces took me to the impressive city of Baracoa, Guantanamo. I had expected to run into a different, distinctively “eastern” community with marked Caribbean characteristic, plenty of chocolate and lush vegetation.

Bridge over the Miel River.
Bridge over the Miel River.

With the exception of the nature, my expectations as a carefree tourist were completely disappointed, particularly by the so-called “chocolate houses” (don’t waste your money on that watery shit).

The hustlers, stalking all tourists, make the atmosphere tense and unpleasant. Where are the genuine and spontaneous locals I ran into in my previous trip, more than 10 years ago?

The first time I saw the majestic Duaba river, some locals were washing clothes on the stones there. The bucolic landscape was replaced by an obese tourist – red as a lobster – who embraced a young mulatto woman as he got drunk and horny.

But not everything is terrible. Actually, I find it hard to describe the beauty of the place without using grandiloquent adjectives.

The town, the first ever built by the Spanish on the island, was kept in isolation for centuries, at the entrance to the lushest tropical forest on the island. Making an effort to look past the thick layer of hustlers, some faces, some expressions, still suggest to us what the town must have been in the glorious days when it was known as Our Lady of Baracoa.

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9 thoughts on “A Trip to Baracoa, Cuba’s First City

  • I wouldn’t understand? I am a Black man in America. I understand better than you. I also understand better than you what the lack of freedom feels like. I understand what having no say so in government means. I can
    therefore empathize with Cuban suffering. It seems to me that you. …..not so much.

  • American “excepcionalism” is both a blessing and a burden. Canadians can sleep nights because of US NORAD patrols. We realize “that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.What happens in Cuba does and should concern America.

  • As usual, you create a straw man, then knock him down! Why shouldn’t I spend the money I’ve earned in a country whose politics I support?! Moreover, I am very aware of the poverty, dilapidated housing, lack of opportunities, etc., I see in Cuba. All of those conditions, however, are the result of Cuba’s Third World status, the U.S. embargo the demise of the Socialist Camp, and the results of following its creaky model. The government, given its limited resources, is trying to muddle through as best it can. Of course more can be done, and is, but this requires both additional investments from the First World, and the full unleashing of the creativity of the Cuban people, as reflected by the blossoming of cooperatives, small businesses, such as paladares and casas particulares, etc. Besides, sitting under a tree, chatting with other jubilados during the most torrid hours of the day, is productive–at least to me! From my Cuban benchmates I hear of their daily struggles, but also, though you’d deny that there are any, of their daily joys, too. Cuba is neither the Third World “hell hole” you depict, nor the “heaven” some of my younger friends described (i.e. a delegation of students from the local high school who travelled to Cuba a few years back). The latter described Cuba in much the same terms as did back in 1970, shortly after returning as a volunteer sugar cane cutter during the “Zafra de los diez millones.”) Cuba is somewhere betwixt “Heaven” and “Hell, ” though I’d say, even with all its problems, closer to “heaven” than my own country, which is descending into a hell hole of injustice, but you wouldn’t understand.

  • Maybe you missed my point that being poor in Cuba is much safer and healthier than in the USA, or are trying to mislead? No one said poverty in anyplace makes Cuban Poverty OK, but I did say the USA Blockade had a lot to do with poverty in Cuba. Thus your country, the USA, has a majority share in the creation of Cuban Poverty and then you complain about it and blame the Cuban Revolutionary Government, nice cover but it don’t wash. Why don’t you turn your fire and brimstone towards all that is wrong in your own home and we Cubans will take care of our problems without your help.

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