Cuba | A Canadian Perspective

Cuban Street Photography

A Salute to Cuba

“They know nothing about us!” railed the man at the TV set with his heavy Spanish accent. He raised his hands toward the screen, flicking dismissively. There aren’t many 60 inch Samsung flat-screens in Cuba, I know, but I was lucky enough to find one under the control of an excited middle-aged bartender.

It was April 11, 2015, and he had the thing tuned to a discussion between a panel of journalists and experts on CNN. The man was irritated by the discourse that merely served as an opinionated prologue to US President Obama’s much anticipated press conference regarding the US’ position on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the efforts of lifting America’s stifling embargo on Cuba; the latter subject being of higher importance to the man of course.

His criticism didn’t seem to be just about the news network and the panelists; it was clearly toward Americans in total. I, however, a Canadian was mainly in Cuba to find out what I and possibly my countrymen knew and didn’t know of the island nation.

Cuba Street Photography

Down the Street

Growing up in the 80’s, I learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs in high school history class, and although I have had some respect for history and current events –- such things have always been important in my family, I knew that most in my generation only cared a little about what went on between these other countries as everybody knew that their survival was jeopardized by the prospects of an almost certain nuclear holocaust.

Since the end on the Cold War, that tension amongst Canadians seems to have abated. It now feels that my fellow citizens have forgotten even more about the lessons learned back when we were adolescents because we feel much safer now. Virtually all age groups are far more preoccupied with what’s happening with American celebrities, and maybe Justin Bieber is included in that too. Oh yes, don’t forget the Stanley Cup. We’re always on about hockey.

The biggest perceived threat, now that our soldiers have been to Afghanistan, is that of Muslim extremism taking hold of Canadian society through boycotts of long held Christmas celebrations and terror campaigns. It feels like Canadians don’t really care at all about how Cuba came to be what it is today or where it may be heading tomorrow. Is that accurate or just a false perception?

That’s mainly why I went to Cuba. I needed to see for myself how they live. To discover how I, as a Canadian, may factor into their story and feel the texture of what’s taking place as Cuba potentially faces a new day with America getting ready to strip away its sanctions. I don’t want to sit around guessing like those expert panelists.

Cuban Street Photography

Rumbo a La Habana

After the Cuban Revolution (1953 – 1959), Canada and Mexico were the only two countries in the western hemisphere that were allowed to maintain uninterrupted diplomatic relations with Cuba because the US government and corporations maintained considerable economic influence in Latin America and the Caribbean where officials were known or perceived to be easily corrupted.

In the 1970’s, although Canada maintained firm membership in NATO and suppressed the terrorist campaign of the Marxist FLQ, our controversial Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau established a strong personal friendship with Fidel Castro. This is conceivably due to Trudeau’s former alignment with and academic expertise in communism, and his understanding Castro’s passion for Cuban independence. The permanent friendship led to an international business agreement to allow Canadian tourists to visit the island.

The peninsula of Varadero, just east of Varadero City began to be transformed into a resort dreamland. This created much needed jobs for the Cuban people.

Tourism became especially important after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. When the Russians left, Cuba’s already fragile economy was devastated. Their government had no choice but to escalate the one industry that was still doing the best while they still could. To this day, more up to date resorts are still being constructed in Varadero and other parts of Cuba. Even to the detriment of the natural environment.

Cuba Street Photography

As Long as Skies are Blue

Cuba’s shores have been dwindling at a tremendous rate of 6 metres (19 feet) a year as a result of resort construction.

One of Varadero’s attractions was the presence of flamingos and other exotic bird species. As development has made the land and their food sources toxic, the government has resorted to relocating many of those birds to the western tip of the island where they have the best chance for survival.

Cuban Street Photography

Boxspring

Some Cubans say that one of the reasons why they like Canadians is because Canadian tourists largely behave far better than Americans.

Many believe that absolutely no Americans have been allowed to set foot in Cuba since the Cuban Missile Crisis by either official US or Cuban permission. That’s actually not true, just as some Cubans have been permitted to temporarily go to other countries other than the US. The details of how these have occurred are too varied and complicated for this photo essay. No one on either side who is able apparently cares to discuss the details either. To be brief, long before Obama’s December 17, 2014 announcement to strip away the US embargo, a very small amount of Americans; even without family ties to Cuba, have been allowed legally to visit the island country without issue.

Cuban Street Photography

Matanzas

As one would expect, there are indeed reports of some US citizens who have been caught visiting Cuba by pretending to be Canadians. Non-officials who spot the ruse usually play along. Cubans are quite well studied on Canada, and know more about our popular Canadian contemporary culture than Canadians know about Cuban culture. It’s amusing to Cubans to hear Americans in their midst say they’re Canadian but when asked, have no idea about things like Tim Horton Donuts. The jig is up, and the Cubans have themselves a good laugh. American’s who have been caught by the authorities; however, have been immediately deported.

Many Cubans speak highly of Canadians, at least to our faces, because Fidel Castro approved of Trudeau. It is mainly because of the personal and political relationship between these two men, and the fact that Canadians have never tried to dominate Cuban natural resources, why 2.6 million Cubans, out of a 2010 official national census population of 11.2 million, have jobs in the island’s thriving tourism and hospitality industry.

Cuban Street Photography

Break Time at 2 PM

Like many people in first world nations, most Canadians have a disgusting habit of assuming that people who live a blue collar existence must be simple, embarrassments to society or plainly unimportant altogether. Canadians, anyone, who visits Cuba should not make this mistake.

Cubans don’t pay taxes and all education, textbooks and supplies for learning are free at all ages. This results in many citizens becoming quite well educated. There are many well-trained architects, engineers and business experts so the intellectual level of the overall population is quite high. It is economics that dictates that many must work in tourism. Visitors; therefore, ought to not assume the waiters, waitresses, concierges and maids they see in the resorts and hotels as lowly uneducated servants. If the Cubans were anywhere else, they could efficiently run your life from top to bottom. These people need to be highly respected.

Cuban Street Photography

Patrons

The American monopolization and exploitation of Cuba, encouraged by Fulgencio Batista, who acquired many kickbacks from it, has resulted in decades of hardened resentment and distrust of both the US government and American citizens. This sentiment is openly and repeatedly expressed to Canadian tourists as a way to show –- convincingly and/or warningly, that in spite of all the years of deplorable hardship under Batista and then the US embargo, Cubans have remained steadfastly pro-Cuba. They’ll never criticize or abandon her. There is only a glimmer of hope amongst common Cubans that most of today’s Americans may not be as insensitive and ruthlessly mercenary as the generation of Americans who rubbed shoulders with Batista so long ago.

Cuban Street Photography

Star Spangled Air Freshener

In spite of all the wonderful things that the average Cuban has to say to the faces of Canadians, you can still detect an almost completely concealed impression that Cubans see their northernmost trading and business partners as nothing more than a bunch of spoiled brats who have far more wealth, opportunities and amenities at our daily disposal –- perhaps even more than we deserve. So, some of the things that we Canadians will complain about while being waited on hand and foot are absolutely ridiculous to Cubans.

Do you want to know how to make a Cuban grumble and cuss under his or her breath? Come from any first world country, load up your plate at the buffet of an all-inclusive resort, and then leave your table without finishing every morsel of food you’ve taken. Although the Canadian appetite for excess irritates Cubans to no end, they continue to smile and largely be polite because Canadians using Cuba as a playground provides Cubans with desperately needed income.

Havana Street Photography

En San Lázaro

Don’t; however, pity Cubans for the material things they don’t have. That is a high insult. Yes, there are plenty of beggars in the streets of Old Havana but across the country; most citizens want to genuinely earn their money. Whether it’s by selling a simple good or providing a simple service, they don’t want to make money by just having their hands out. To help them, don’t feel sorry for them. Tip them instead.

Tipping is a highly appreciated, not expected, custom. Some foreigners have heard that workers who receive tips don’t get to keep all gratuities. This is a myth. It is only government employees who must not be offered or accept money from anyone beyond their actual pay, as it could potentially be construed as a bribe for any fracture of the law. The rest of the population is allowed to keep everything given to them, and they certainly need it.

All Cuban money is actually minted in Canada, and then transferred to the Central Bank of Cuba for circulation and control. One of two currencies in use is the Cuban peso. The other is the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) that is expected to be eventually phased out. US dollars are good but Canadian dollars are still favoured when pesos aren’t readily available. It is the exchange of any foreign funds into pesos that is strictly based on the strength of the US dollar. US$100 or C$100 will typically get you around 87 pesos, and 10 centavos ($87.10). But what does all this mean for the Cuban cost of living? Well . . .

Cuba Street Photography

Island Gridlock

In Canada, the price of a 335 ml (11 oz) can of a soft drink, for an example, will cost an average of C$1.10 if bought singly at a store. The exact same can in Cuba will cost an average of 1 peso. Sound like no big deal? Keep reading. Canadians earning minimum wage in part time jobs can still easily afford a single can of pop. For Cubans, on the other hand, things are quite different.

Employees in tourism and hospitality are possibly among some of the highest paid Cubans. They live very modestly but better than most others, and the majority of it is due to tipping. It is not possible for them to live on just their basic wages.

At the high end of the industry, hotel and resort receptionists, administrators and event promoters seem to make the most money at an average of 3 pesos a day. Cubans work six days a week, not five days like most Canadians. So, a 335 ml can of pop will wash away a full third of a day’s earnings. Buying soft drinks for a Cuban paid at the high end of the tourism industry is splurging whereas even Canadians on minimum wage can do this without feeling it.

Havana Street Photography

Esperando a Realizar

At the low end of the tourism industry waiters, waitresses, maids and other people who physically break their backs to serve foreigners seem to make an average of 7 pesos a month. A can of pop is out of the question but who cares about the luxury of consuming a sugary soft drink? It’s hardly a necessity isn’t it?

Let’s try another example of greater importance. A pack of 15 menstrual pads for women runs at an average cost of 60 pesos. Do the math. At 3 pesos a day or 7 pesos a month, see who can afford such a hygiene necessity from who can’t. These are things that Canadians, even the poor ones, take for granted.

Cubans can certainly be very sarcastic but if you tip a Cuban just 1 peso for anything they’ve done for you, and he or she thanks you while telling you that you are generous know that they’re being absolutely sincere.

Havana Street Photography

Tarde Ocupado

Most Canadians firmly believe in capitalism and democracy. As part of the Red Scare, we all grow up conditioned to frown on Marxism. It’s only a real rebel who dares to take a liking to communism. So, why on earth do so many Canadians enjoy going to Cuba so much? For two reasons; 1) it is typically the cheapest Caribbean getaway known to mankind, and 2) most Canadians like to drink. Now you see how the symbiosis has been sustained for all these decades.

It isn’t just public intoxication that is illegal in Canada but even sober public drinking in most situations. The exceptions are when out in front of one’s home but still on one’s own property and at restaurants, patios, sporting events, rented wedding venues and similar private events that are all liquor licensed. In Cuba; however, it’s common to see tourists and citizens walking around at airports, virtually anywhere, drinking from open bottles of beer and spirits. It goes on right in front of the authorities without opposition. Canadians love this.

Cubans will tell you that the top three things that tourists are interested in buying, especially Canadians, are coffee, cigars and rum. This isn’t exactly a trend that has manifested since Trudeau and Castro set up the tourism industry either. As far back as the 1700’s, Canada’s eastern maritime regions had traded codfish and beer for sugar and rum.

Cuba Street Photography

Quartet

Currently, Cuba’s top five trading partners; in order of most important to least important, are China, Venezuela, Columbia, Italy and Canada.

Canada and the US are also allies and major trading partners, of course, particularly through NAFTA. Canadian trade protocols, known as the Export Controls List (ECL item 5400), on US origin goods are “designed to ensure Canada is not used as a diversionary route to circumvent U.S. Embargoes (e.g., embargoes of Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea). Everybody also knows; nevertheless, that although Cuba has maintained official policies to not do trade with countries that closely ally with US economic interests since 1959, and that the US has held a crippling embargo on the island for an equally tremendously long time Cuba is full of American trade goods.

Havana Street Photography

Los Taxis en Plaza de la Revolución

Probably what sticks out in most people’s minds are the millions of old and well maintained Chevies on Cuban roads. You’d think that Cubans have developed a knack for keeping those cars going like they were raising the dead. While that is somewhat true, it’s also a fact that parts for old American cars that can be obtained in the US, are in fact sold in Canada. Cubans, will buy those parts from Canadian sources, and have them shipped to Cuba to keep their old classic cars running like new.

The US embargo against Cuba has resulted in the US putting pressure on the Canadian government for decades. Despite some integration, Canadian and US trade laws are; however, separate regimes with differing requirements. So, the Cubans are paying far more than what the parts are actually worth.

Cuba Street Photography

A Sunny Street

Canadian exports to Cuba include machinery, agrifood products, sulphur, electrical machinery and newsprint. Imports from Cuba are ores, fish and seafood, tobacco, copper and aluminum scrap and rum –- yes, we’re still after that rum.

As the US and Cuba work to regain each other’s trust in the coming years, we’ll see if Canada stays as one of Cuba’s top five favourite trading partners.

The average Cuban speaks very optimistically about the effort. Some Canadian tourists seem to speak cynically, foretelling of a new wave of American corruption heading the island’s way. I’m not worried about that. I see Cubans as steadfastly independent and no nonsense. They’ll deal with any dishonesty and abuse of their economy. I think the Cuban hope in renewed relations with the US is not as grounded in economics and trade –- although that’s a highly important matter, as it is in the possibility of reuniting with millions of loved ones in Miami and other US cities.

Despite the optimism, the Cubans do still have to get through their distrust of Americans that they’ve been conditioned to sustain. It will take a national head to approve America, to convince the population to also accept America. Raúl Castro is likely just the leader to pull that off.

Cuban Street Photography

Waiting out the Rat Race

Back in front of that flat screen TV tuned to Wolf Blitzer on CNN, the bartender told me that Obama has a 70 per cent approval rating amongst Cubans. He said the country believes that Obama is the best president that the US has ever had, and that it’s a pity that his presidency cannot last much longer.

He said similarly about Raúl, suggesting that the younger brother of Fidel Castro likely has only until 2018 before he has to give up his own presidency. The bartender said there is already a successor to Raúl waiting in the wings, and most Cubans favour this person. He wouldn’t name the potential successor for me, and I don’t know enough about Cuban political figures to figure it out.

If I was to guess, I’d say it could be either Raúl’s daughter Mariela Castro or his son Alejandro Castro Espín. They’re relatively young and quite healthy, active in the nation’s politics –- he a military veteran, progressive in their thinking –- perhaps she more than he, and popular.

There’s an interesting future ahead for Cuba.

28 thoughts on “Cuba | A Canadian Perspective

  1. It was an interesting read, although I did not understand everything 100 %. It strikes me that Cuba and north Korea are two countries that are stuck in time. Even if it seeps into the development so it is not much. There will be a total shock for them when it all washes over them, as we got used to.
    And i love the photos.🙂

    • Yes, I think you’re right. Because of some access to TV’s that broadcast channels from Mexico, Central American countries, the US and even Canada, their education (which actually is based on instruction, used books and technological standards that are 10 years old on average) and reports from some citizens who have been allowed to go to other countries for short stays, they have a pretty good idea of what’s going on outside of Cuba. There is still enough ignorance; however, and for a lack of a less caustic word, to cause a bit of a culture shock.

      For just one example, personal wealth is something that they apparently have difficulty getting their head around. Not everyone who visits Cuba from Canada or Europe is rich, probably most aren’t, but to many Cuban’s it looks like we all are.

      Minimum wage is set differently for each Canadian province but currently all provinces hover around the C$11.00 per hour mark (I’d love to know what the equivalent is over there in Sweden). Statistics Canada (Statscan) periodically analyses what is known as the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) for all provinces, territories and even smaller regions. Anyone making below a certain amount is below the LICO point and is; therefore, in poverty and having difficulty making ends meet for the basics of Canadian living. Statscan recognizes the minimum wages as different from what are called “living wages” which put Canadians in the realm of where they are just able to make ends meet. On average, for all provinces and territories, that’s around $14.00.hr. A living wage puts Canadians into a “middle-income” or “middle class” status, which is where most Canadians actually are. Low income is the second largest group; a population that is almost as large as the “middle-class”. The truly wealthy are the smallest group.

      When you explain that a Canadian on a living wage earns between a minimum of C$30,940.00 per year and C$57,000 per year these days, Cubans already react by exclaiming, “Ay yi yi! That’s too much money!”

      Yes, there will be culture shock.

  2. A very intersting article. The prices on menstrual pads are insane!
    It msut have been great to get to see Cuba before McDonalds and other companies ruin the place with ads and neon signs.

    • Cubans speak with mixed feelings about the eventual increase of American commercialism; including McDonald’s and Walmart. That’s part of the bad taste that’s been left in their mouths for the past 50 years. Realistically, this aspect of nation building is expected to happen slowly on the island; years. Both the US and Cuban government are apparently playing this very cautiously.

      It doesn’t seem like American corporations will have free will to quickly go in and set up shop like a tidal wave on a poor country.

      • I guess that in a decade or so, Cuba will be like most other nations, with an increasing population of fat people that come uup with all kinds of excuses for their fat asses: genes, society and ‘big bones’, everything but their own lifestyle and food intake. While Western junkfood restaurants will slowly kill the people by feeding them cheap GMO cornsyrup and carbohydrates.

        • I can’t say that I share your sentiment, Cardinal. In fact, I must argue.

          My wife is a plus-sized girl, and has been long before I ever met her. She’s faced discrimination and other abuses in all avenues because people take one look at her and assume that she’s a fat, lazy, overeating junk-food-junkie who must make nothing but feeble excuses for her size.

          Although she’s proud of whom she is, she does simultaneously have acute low self-esteem directly because of her size and the lousy way people treat her and think of her.

          My train of thought is, if you are dissatisfied with yourself – either in whole or in part, get to work on changing whatever it is that you see as a problem, and try not to go overboard with it. Despite my simple logic, there is the reality that Kim will always be a large girl and; therefore, will always possess some amount of self-loathing because she honestly can’t fix her weight problem. Here’s why . . .

          As a kid, long before I met her, she was active in gymnastics. She had an accident that severely damaged her L4 and L5 vertebrae, and impacted the vertebrae at the base of her neck. A specialist said that she would be permanently confined to a wheelchair by the time she turned 32. That age has come and gone a long time ago. Although she’s not in a wheelchair, there are some days when she can’t walk, and is in nothing but inconsolable agony. Also the fear that she still will eventually wind up in a wheelchair continues to haunt her every day, even on the good ones.

          She’d loved to be far more active, and keep up with her still athletic husband; as if that doesn’t add to her depression, but both the experts and her intense physical pain insist that she must not or she will certainly end up in a chair quicker.

          Spinal surgery has been proposed but with the expert prediction of a 50/50 chance that she’ll be in a chair immediately afterwards as opposed to her continuing on with good days when she can just manage on her own.

          She’s a woman. That means she truly is genetically predisposed to gain weight far easier than most men. It also means that she is genetically predisposed to have far more difficulty losing weight than most men. So, being that she can’t exercise – along with truly watching her caloric intake, she has body fat that she’d loved to get rid of but absolutely cannot.

          Of course, people don’t know her history like I do, and it’s really none of their business. As they do with all other large people, they look and assume the worst of her. It only keeps her down, at times hating herself and hating her life – even with me in it supporting her. I’ve had to hear her say this many times when she’s at her worst. It really is a terrible shame because she truly is so beautiful inside and out, and I love her so much.

          Many of the people who have cut her down behind her back and even to her face, just because she’s fat, she’s gone on and done amazing things to help them achieve their goals. Frankly, I wish she’d stop because they don’t deserve the benefit, and again, after helping them, they put her down or do things to deny her success.

          I’ll take her as she is any day, any time. I’ll continue to help her find happiness everyday that I am alive, just as I have been doing for the past 25 years.

          I really don’t like putting this much personal stuff out there for all others, and I hate having to justify my position but I had to respond to your comment. Out of respect for her, and myself I had to say something.

          As for Cuba, it’s true that I don’t see too many large citizens there but I have seen some. Will that increase as time goes by? Who knows? I’d rather not speculate on that. Whether or not they’re fat or trim will never be a concern to me.

          • I’m sorry to hear about Kim’s struggles, Allan. There is so much to think about after a post like this. I’d like to visit it before the country changes too much.

          • Thanks, and I highly recommend seeing Cuba. It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people.

            If you can, go see it as it currently is, and as it will be as changes take place. Kim and I were planning to go to Arizona in 2016 but we’ll likely go back to Cuba.

            We met some people there that we became attached to.

  3. Very insightful essay. Having lived in developing countries where the majority are poor, I can see it will be a challenge for Cubans to withstand the commercial floodtide of American ‘culture’. I am heartened by your view that that their strong sense of identity will stand them in good stead. We in the industrialised world have much to learn from such a culture. One thing we need to learn is that materialist-driven economies cannot expand indefinitely. They also risk destroying the things of real value (the environment for one) trying to satisfy everyone’s never-ending wants. Great photos too.

    • Yes, that challenge is finding out if they have it within them to strive to achieve and gain more materially and individually without becoming greedy. You haven’t got a culture on earth that hasn’t failed in that endeavour already. Even their history before the Castro brothers and Batista is already based on that failure.

      When I speak to Cubans or listen to them speak to other foreigners of 1st world economies, the past always comes up. You can try to avoid it all you want but somehow it still manifests like a scar that won’t heal. To this day, the serious circumstances that led them to living under a communist regime remain in the forefront of their minds.

      It’s clear to me that their leadership has always seen Marxism as a means of establishing morality firstly, and economy secondly. The sense of impropriety and indignity to Cuban people is what lead to the rise of the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and others more than the economic upheaval. While their chosen path has truly led them to a moral state that would excite Thomas Moore, it has failed them economically.

      Yes, they blame the economics squarely on the highly effective US embargo but still, even when they were in good with the former Soviet Union, economics still could have been and should have been far better for the people with the embargo in place.

      Now they need and want jobs, money and all the benefits of modernization more than ever and despite the risks they already know also lay in wait with those potential gains. They know that they have to globalize with the rest of the planet. Their survival depends on it. It all depends on how badly do they want it? What sacrifices are they willing to make?

      They currently seem determined to use the hard lessons learned before Fidel Castro, perhaps secretly even since, to make certain that the potential abuses of independence, economy and just maybe environment and wildlife conservation don’t rise again as they become less isolationist.

      Russia tried this under the Soviets. In truth, it lasted for a long 74 years and western historical and political experts still insist thatt there is nothing to clearly say what caused the collapse of the Iron Curtain. You do have to wonder; however, if it wasn’t the increasing globalization of technology, information, commerce, intellectual advancement, and yes, even greed of the rest of the world that caused it?

      • Thank you for this great reply. One problem is that wherever there are valuable resources Big Corp will be in there somehow. It has a vested interest in finding ways not to allow alternative economic models to prosper. Democratic Republic of Congo is the best example I know. All socialist leaning leaders in Africa have had a hard time. it is generally accepted that Lumumba was assassinated by the CIA, and Mobutu, a puppet nobody kept in power by the US and other western powers for 30 years, allowing him to bleed his country in every sense, while the west exploited the resources. It’s still going on behind the factional discord. I wonder what Cuba has that Big Corp wants at this moment in time. Or am I being too cynical.

        • You might not be cynical. Just realistic. Look at Angola; a country that Cuba and Russia provided military support to when it was fighting to become socialist; which didn’t exactly last either.

          The socialist leaders in African countries have a tough time because they don’t really believe in any political or economic system. They use Marxism as a means to control territory and people, and exploit both in order to make personal fortunes that they hide away in European bank accounts.

          History shows that at most, they continue to encourage tribalism which is also very dangerous. While taking the lion’s share of their nations revenues, they allow enough to flow to the people of the same tribes as themselves while leaving the dissenting tribes to go without so that they can’t advance. Again and again, the opposing tribes rise up and stage coups which either causes the corrupt leaders to either get killed or flee for their lives into exile. The cycle of tribalism begins again under the new socialist or even fascist (e.g., Idi Amin — Uganda, Robert Mugabe — Zimbabwe) governments that cater to their own tribal interests while leaving others to wither and die.

  4. Cuba is an interesting country in so many ways, isn’t it. A paradox on every street corner so to speak. And, yes, it will be interesting to see who will take over after Raúl Castro – and whether the Cuban revolution will continue at all. I love your series of photos from the beautiful Caribbean island.

  5. Thanks for the knowledge, Allan. Another important blog piece. Americans behave in foreign lands the worst in my opinion. Sorry if that honest opinion is mean, but ….*shrugs shoulders*. And Americans in Cuba, forget it. Some people’s perceptions, and ignorance, can’t be controlled.
    It’s crazy to think though they are very accepting of one nation and not to another. Putting things into their perspective, it’s very understandable. From the way you describe, it seems like they have the capacity to build rapport with just about any other nations.
    When I was in Okinawa, there are Japanese who would stay outside military bases holding up rally signs saying “NO”, meaning no for Americans to staying. I heard of some Greek rallies here in Crete. Same goes in Naples, Italy.
    It always makes me think that it’s so much better, easier, for everyone to just get along. These countries benefit from foreigners anyways. I sometimes question why other people still hate, not accepting, on foreigners. But of course, I know there’s so much more to it than a wishful thinking that everyone can coexist easily.
    Going back to basic, to basic foundation …. Any family should not just let anybody into their house.
    it’s really hard to put things into perspective. It’s a crazy, cruel, challenging, beautiful world we live in.

    • Rommel, for all of these reasons and more, the road ahead for establishing positive relations between Cuba and the US is a long one. It’s been 50 years of hatred and distrust between two nations. Even after official policies have been established to ensure better diplomatic and economic relations, it will still take a long time — perhaps at least the passing of a generation of citizens in both countries, to ease the pain.

      That healing, nevertheless, has to start now. No one will ever get there without making the crucial first steps toward that objective, and if peace and acceptance are not fundamental goals, then obviously future generations of millions will continue to be at risk of poverty, disconnection from family members and other ills for no good reason.

    • Me too, and the body work of those old vehicles alone is amazing. Absolutely pristine!

      In North America, there are a lot of people who love big rigs and would like to own them like a classic car or hot rod but it’s impracticable to do so, so they have to use the the trucks to haul freight and make money with them. The situation is similar with the old cars of Cuba. It’s so costly to own and maintain them that nearly all of them are used as taxis.

    • The country is so beautiful, and my wife and I met some great salt of the earth people there.

      We too came away with mixed emotions. While it’s depressing to see so many having to live in such hardship, it’s clear that they’re genuinely still proud to be able to call themselves independent. Yes, many must be extremely careful about expressing any dissatisfaction with the state of the nation but the ability to facilitate change is still in their hands. They must be very, very careful about implementing it.

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