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Hasta la Vista, Cuba

Posted by Sara / February 6, 2006

tropicana.jpgSo, after a year of having a crappy little photo of Varadero beach longingly taped to my office wall, I was finally standing there (on the beach, not on the wall, which would also be pretty cool in a way).

Mostly I laid around the pool with topless, leathery Quebeckers and cranky Germans, reading A Confederacy of Dunces and trying to get my freckles to join together in a semblance of a tan. But we did do some exploring, and after a lifetime of propaganda from both sides, being in Cuba to make some of my own conclusions was more than worth the trip.

Rum is cheap. Cigars are not, unless you buy them on the black market, and then you are quite likely to smoke banana leaves and puke.

Damn, the People REALLY love Che. I mean, I knew that. But I was unprepared for the intensity of their love, even after all these years. There were lots of elaborate murals on barns and on city buildings painstakingly detailing Che's contributions to the Revolution. And lots of goats. I love Che too.

Havana: Here, more than anywhere else, you really understand that the People kicked the imperialist swine out of their mansions and moved in. It blew my mind. In Cuba, you can't buy or sell real estate. You pay 10% of your wages to the state as rent for 20 years, and then you own the home.

There is poverty, but with the highest literacy rate in the world, free education all the way through university, and more comprehensive social healthcare than Canada has, it's hard to argue that Cubans have a low standard of living. Not to mention dying--the state pays for your funeral!

Yeah, we got ripped off in Havana. But it's because I'm a sucker, not because the People are anything less than essentially Good.


The Cuban Five: There are five Cuban men in US prison, serving life sentences on charges of espionage and conspiracy. They maintain they were involved in monitoring the actions of Miami-based terrorist groups, in order to prevent attacks on Cuba. It was inspiring to see the extent to which they are supported by Cubans. We saw posters and billboards publicizing the case everywhere, from the airport and government offices to the smallest bars and shops.

The Tropicana: Finally, I get what look drag queens are going for (this had long perplexed me). Generally I find pink spandex crotches and sequined headdresses to be pretty dull, but there were some impressive and titilating feats of strength. The best thing about this place is that when you arrive they just give you a bottle of rum and two cans of Coke, and you can amuse yourself making increasingly stronger Cuba Libres throughout the night.

Toilet Paper is a luxury often not available to tourists. Sometimes washroom attendants will give you a few precious squares for a Cuban Convertable Peso ($1 USD).

And, Castro likes baseball.




j mac / February 7, 2006 at 12:28 pm
Is that a bus?

Also, and I preface this question by saying that I'm not unattracted to Cuban ideals, so don't think I'm just being a shit disturber, but, do pictures of Che everywhere, and posters of the five imprisoned Cubans necessarily mean that people really support either thing? I mean, Iraq used to be plastered with photos of Saddam.

I would expect that giant posters trumpeting any cause would be a priority - or a necessity - for any governments in the sights of the empire.

Wow, we are nerds.
Hannah / February 7, 2006 at 02:59 pm
BBC News carried a funny story about the ongoing Cuba-U.S. propaganda war. Since January, the U.S. mission has displayed scrolling red text about, among other things, human rights, on one of its buildings. Cuba retaliated by erecting a monument of black flags that obscures the sign. Did you see either, Sara?
Full story here:
Sara / February 8, 2006 at 11:11 am
Yes, that's a bus. It costs 40 pesos and 300 people can fit on it! I wouldn't exactly want to be on it when it was at capacity, though.
People that I met were very into talking about the Triumph of the Revolution (and you could hear the capitals in their voices), Che and the Cuban Five. I'm not saying that this isn't the result of indoctrination since early childhood, but it was definitely more than posters and billboards.
I didn't see any of these scrolling messages or black flags. But there were some pretty over-the-top signs suggesting that Bush plans to steal people's children away. I wish we could have gotten a photo of one.
Sure, it's a complicated issue, but there is little doubt in my mind that Cubans feel more connected to the political life of their country than people in North America.
While we were there, 1.4 million people marched in Havana to demand the extradition of Luis Posada Carrilles, a Cuban exile in the US accused of killing 74 people in terrorist attacks on Cuba. Here's a little piece about it, including an image of the amusing Bush+Hitler=Posada placards:
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Now THAT'S some solid propaganda.

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