Day 230 – The Cuban dream

2009/04/28 § Leave a comment


Backstreets of Havana

Backstreets of Havana

When walking around in central Havana one could think that the place is uninhabited. The place is falling to pieces, garbage covers the streets and disgusting looking and sick dogs roam the neighborhood sniffing for anything to eat.

In stark contrast to this stand places like the national hotel, a place where you sip a mojito by the pool and light a Cohiba with sandalwood sticks. I assume that the difference in experience of Cuba stems partially from people experiencing one or the other side of Cuba. Or in asking the locals all the “right questions”. “Are you happy in Cuba?”. “What do you think of the US and would you want to live like they do?”. “Are you pro revolution?”.

There is a risk to romanticize Cuba due to the simple fact that it is too simple to fall for the picture Fidel has presented to you rather than exploring and looking behind the facade. One thing that outraged me was for instance that people are arrested when you talk to them, even without asking them all the “right questions”. I met three people who talked to locals in the street at night when the police stepped in and arrested them for their interaction.

Maybe it is convenient to fall for the smile Cubans put on if you ask them how they like the place. Who in their normal mind would tell you that they suffer from generally poor conditions of public facilities and low wages that give no room for much else than the basic survival, if they may be arrested and put away for counter-revolutionary tendencies?

Havana, stray dogs

Havana, stray dogs

Some tourists I talked to argued that the Cubans have all they need. That they would in fact trade their English or whatever home for this wonderful place. But then again, with a return ticket in your pocket and a mojito in your hand that seems easy to say. Yes, people are not starving to death. Yes, they kinda have a job. Yes they might have a decent and free health-care system. But can they express there thoughts freely? No. Can they travel and compare what they have with other places? No. Can they escape the all-surrounding propaganda, that is painted and each and every wall of Cuba? No. Are they free to choose between the life they have versus the life they want? No.

I am amazed that socialism seems to end up looking like a dictatorship as a general rule. I am not a fan of a lack of freedom and I sensed that Cubans’ are not either. I am sure against consumerism and totalitarian-US-style-capitalism. However, any system that allows basic freedoms is better than any other system which does not, in my mind.

Fidel is on the way out, and the American way of life is already lurking on the other side of the waters off Havanas promenade. It may not be for the better in all ways, yet in most ways it most likely is going to improve Cubans’ lives.

Cuba is a depressing and suppressing place to me which got stuck in the 60s and which is forced to try to live one mans egoistic dream. I think it turned into a nightmare for many. But rest assured, that if you like to come to Cuba and leave again loving it, you just book a room in the hotel nacional, sip you mojito and smoke you Cohiba and Cuba is going to be a mystical place full of wonders and happy people…

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