Sunday, June 7, 2009

Havana Part 1

When my friend Kathy went to Cuba as part of a Key West Botanical Garden Tour she came back with a bunch of pictures of Finca Vigia, already published here, showing Ernest Hemingway's Cuban home, and a bunch of pictures from her trip around Havana. The magnificent:
The not so magnificent:The revolutionary:The military:The middle class (in a class-less society):
The artistic:I like the modern art gallery above with the sign outside- peligro, "danger" - though I have no doubt it refers to roadworks, not art. Cuba for an American is the back door equivalent of North Korea, though unlike North Korea, every sign I have seen is that Cuba is just another Latin American country, partially dysfunctional, and yet in many ways more functional than one might imagine, considering the US's hostility of the past 60 years.The American love affair with the automobile is one starting point for a rapprochement, a way to close the gap between two nations ninety miles (150 kilometers) apart:It used to be that the automotive world in Revolutionary Cuba was stuck in drive circa 1959, but these old cars nowadays are more often powered by modern Japanese or Korean engines and parts cobbled together in ways that Americans have never had to learn. These old cars and Soviet era Ladas (Fiat 1500) are replaced by modern shiny go karts from the Far East where trade embargoes and ritual resentment are anathema as far as Cuba's import market is concerned.Tourists with hard currency (what an Iron Curtain term!) get special treatment, consisting of whores restaurants and buggy rides. In a land of egalitarian poverty, the dollar rules:There is so much propaganda about Cuba in the US it's hard to discern truth from fiction. My sole visit was a close sail-by taking cover from a storm in the Straits of Florida and all I saw were revolutionary slogans, mountains, fields and endless mangrove islands along the north coast. I listen to Radio Reloj (950am) and Radio Nacional (590 am) in the car, now that I am forced to drive, and while I sit up at work in the quiet times I wonder what they are doing across the way. Probably much the same we are, with less. They tell us Cuba is allowing Havana to crumble, which owing to their lack of money wouldn't be surprising. Perhaps it's true in some parts of the city:
To compare Cuba to the United States as so many critics do seems irrational to me. Comparisons with similar countries might be more in line. I'd rather be Cuban in Cuba, than Haitian in Haiti or Honduran in Honduras. If I were Cuban in Miami I would count my blessings in my dollar denominated bank account, or if I wanted my finca back I'd do what Castro did and take to the Sierra Maestra and fight for it. Otherwise I would shut the fuck up, grow fat and contented in the land of the free and let commerce do it's work to break down barriers. The embargo benefits the dictatorship across the way and the would-be dictators in Miami and why President Obama, who wants change in the rest of the world, won't do anything about this stupidity is just another of those mysteries that puzzle me about our leadership. Banks yes, autos no. Palestinians yes (at last) Cubans no. If not now, when?