Trip to Cuba

Trip to Cuba – Country of Fidel, Che and melancholy

From my trip to Cuba I will always remember the strange smell of the air there Havana. The same air that made my sister sick with weak lungs and put her in the hospital for a month when she returned.

I saw her leave with a fever of 40 and she could barely stand up, I didn’t know it was that serious and for my entire stay I remained in the dark about the hospital developments. So as not to worry me, they didn’t tell me that that strange fever that I continued to have every time we returned to the Cuban capital was nothing more than a bad infection, probably due to this air that was difficult to breathe even for the most avid smoker.

Because the colorful and old 50s cars, the chevrolet with mufflers that are certainly not catalytic, they are not just on a postcard but they are the vehicles that speed through the streets of Cuba making you feel part of a world that no longer exists outside of there.
And the Cubans don’t know this. They know there is something but the means of communication with the outside do not exist. There is no Internet and when there is it is prohibitively expensive. And a Cuban who earns $25 a month cannot pay $10 for an hour of connection. He wouldn’t even know what to do once he got online.

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chevrolet cuba

A trip to Cuba is a journey that involves all the senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch.
A journey through time and into a culture that gave me food for thought for weeks. Indeed, considering that I am writing this post after more than a year, I believe that it has given me food for thought for much longer than a few weeks.

I arrived in Cuba in end of January leaving the cold and rain of London. As soon as I get off the plane the heat of the Cuban winter, which is warm enough for us, attacked me, I couldn’t breathe well. I haven’t felt that heat in a long time. But not only. The humidity made our clothes sticky and the first thing I had to do was take off the layers of sweaters I had on to remain in a short-sleeved t-shirt. I didn’t remember how much the heat could make me suffer.
I find my sister at the airport waiting for me. We flew on two different planes and arrived with a two hour difference. It was nice to know that I was about to begin this new life experience with her.

It was already evening, the time difference had confused me and as soon as we arrive at the casa particular we find Iolanda and Toni waiting for us in front of the door. Iolanda has prepared something to eat for us and after the first introductory chat we go to sleep. 14 hours of flight literally destroyed us.
The next day after a hearty Iolanda-style breakfast with Gaia (my sister for those who don’t know) we organize the first tour of the city.
Usual recommendations from the hosts. Cuba is very safe but always be careful of our cameras, wallets etc etc.

Our house is near the University and 10 minutes walking from Malecon.
The Malecon is the seafront, all Cuban cities overlooking the sea have one. But the one in Havana is the most famous. Even those who haven’t been there know very well what I’m talking about.

The waves crash violently on the rocks and if you walk on the wrong side there is the risk of taking a shower.
Children are playing with each other trying to dodge the splashes of water. It seems like a usual game for them and I like watching them because they are so different from European children who no longer play football in the square but already have a mobile phone and a PlayStation at an early age.
The kids here don’t even know what a playstation is.

While walking I realize that there are two recurring images in Cuba, and in particular in La Habana, the That e Fidel Castro.
The Cubans’ devotion to these two characters is religious. It has never been clear to me to what extent their fury and passion for Fidel is genuine and true.
I have been to countries where it was not possible to speak badly of the king, but in familiar environments the reality of things was explained to me. But in Cuba, whether you were in a bar or within the walls of Fidel’s house, he was always described to me as a hero.
Yet these explanations do not exactly coincide with the quality of life, many have double jobs and the second gender is illegal.

My taxi driver was an engineer by day and an illegal taxi driver in his free time, his wife was a doctor who had to work in order to earn a little more money by defying the police and checks, which can be frequent.
However, I admit that one thing is true. In Cuba no one dies of hunger.
The communist regime works in a certain way and seeing something I had studied in different disciplines put into practice, from history to philosophy to economics, was very interesting.
In a perfect and ideal society and in a non-globalized world this policy makes sense and could work. Everyone has a home, everyone has food, everyone is educated. The problem arises when a doctor is paid the same as a clerk and when the waiters are the richest thanks to tips from foreign tourists and when it becomes impossible to move freely. You are a prisoner of your own country.


A sort of closure that clashes with the fictitious openness to tourism and foreigners.
In fact, tourism is encouraged, just think of the horrible thing Varadero, which is a product created specifically for the tourist, who wants to see nothing of Cuba and travels around the world to laze under the sun and eat 24 hours non-stop without having any chance of meeting a single Cuban.

But if tourism is encouraged, unfortunately, what is not encouraged is theinteraction between locals and tourists.
Cubans on many occasions are kept at a safe distance from tourists. In Cuba the tourist is protected and the Cuban is always wrong, even in cases where the opposite should be the case.
A Trinidad I saw girls who couldn’t talk to tourists otherwise the police would take them away and I happened to chat with a Cuban in the square in front of the Capitol and see an alarmed policeman rush at me in record time who, after asking me if everything was ok, told me literally taken away with him. I don’t know where and it didn’t matter what I said claiming it wasn’t a nuisance. I saw this kind gentleman walking away, he was laughing but his eyes were telling me something else, and I felt guilty for perhaps not having said enough.
It is difficult to live in Cuba if you are Cuban. Yet on the other hand it is a country in a certain way organized mainly for Cubans.

A foreigner cannot open a business unless the partner and therefore the person signing the papers is local. This is communism, even if I couldn’t explain the presence of certain “rich people”. It seems that communism is valid for some but not for all and this is another reason why the theory, although ideally perfect, in fact in my opinion would not budge under certain humanly impossible conditions, will not last forever.
Because of Fidel Castro there are no more and what keeps the Cuban people so attached to their land is Loyalism, not so much communism, the Cuban glue is a man who with his eloquence and the strength of his words has managed to organize a revolution and rise to power and mobilize an entire people for the realization of the communist dream”until victory always”.

Ever onward to victory

No country, or perhaps few like Myanmar for example, can make you travel through time, space and imagination like Cuba can.
Colonial and decadent cities are fantastic subjects for photos, and cars make a country where colors are already everywhere even more colourful.
Getting lost in Trinidad where the bright colors of the houses match perfectly with the blue of the Caribbean sea and the bright colors of the Chevrolets makes you feel like you’re on a film set.
And then Havana dirty, old, with buildings that are about to collapse and art galleries under the porticoes where local artists work 7 days a week, enormous Cuban cigars in the mouths of phantom fortune tellers, melancholic musicians on the malecon who play trumpets and percussions at the sunset, and singers scattered in the bars and main streets who enliven the long walk to the notes of qui saz que saz.

Cuba is not just music, salsa, Buena Vista Social Club and Mohito.
I will always remember her as a Melancholy countryin which smiles hide something deeper, sometimes hardships and the desire to escape, sometimes a love so deep and true for one’s country that it made me see and experience first-hand what it means to have an ideal and fight for it .
Perché to Cuba: Homeland or Death

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