Day 225 – Cuba Libre?
2009/04/21 § Leave a comment
The first surprise after arriving at the Cuban Airport was the brand new Peugot taxi that transported me into town, chilled down- after the annoyance of an almost one hour delay due to very thorough searches by the customs- by an air-condition.
However, quickly the old facades of Habana came into sight and the casa particular I stayed in, while officially in the posh area, was surrounded by pretty but pretty run-down houses. The place itself though being very nice and clean and run by a pleasant couple.
The price for accommodation however is at best a nuisance at worst a proper shock. No place can be rented for less than 20US$ it seems, at least not legally. There are some illegal places, that is people who rent rooms without permission of the state.
Big brother seems to be everywhere in Habana, as one would expect for a “proper” socialist state. Internet is not allowed in private homes, the press is not free, one cannot criticize Fidel or his regime and if you do you will be thrown into jail. Cuban people cannot travel freely and the decade long US embargo mixed with inefficient “socialist” economics has left many shelfs at shops almost empty. And you sure cannot rent a place without the state knowing of it.
It is a weird place that meets you like a ghost of the past. Similar to the dinosaur-like vehicles that crawl down the roads of Habana coughing up far too much exhaust, Cuba comes across as something that should no longer be running, but somehow still does. And just like their proud old cars, Fidel and his socialism seems to the Cubans a necessity but in secret many surely aspire to more, and wish for something more shiny, maybe better. For the moment it still seems so unreachable though.
Nevertheless, Fidel is old, hardly has been seen in public for months and his followers appear to loosen up a situation that previously appeared hopeless enough for many to flee their country. In combination with a softer US president who just recently offered to loosen certain restrictions on Cubans in the US and on travel possibilities from the US to Cuba the tides might be changing.
For me reason enough to pay Fidel’s Cuba a visit, before it becomes scrapped along with the beautiful old cars. I wanted to be here before McDonalds and their comrades move in and Americanize what has been maintained by Castro as a fortress against the US for some 50 years.