“What’s up with the two currencies?” This is the question I heard without fail every time I met an older US American on the tourist circuit in Cuba. Those who have never traveled to the island nor studied it in depth may not know that the country operates a system of doble moneda, or two currencies. One of these, the CUC, is valued at 24 or 25 times more than the other, the Cuban peso. Continue reading Cuba: Two Currencies, Infinite Problems
There’s a subtle magic in traveling rural highways under the black of night. I’ve always thought this, but in Cuba the thought sneaks into my mind almost without fail and has the power to subdue me for hours. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s some aspect in the night time journeys through this country that awakens part of my soul that usually lies dormant.
Continue reading Thoughts on the road to Cienfuegos
[Except for the last section, what follows is more or less what I originally wrote down during our trip to the eastern city of Baracoa.]
Speeding down a narrow two-lane highway, expansive fields and not-so-distant mountains roll by the bus window slowly. The hoards of farm animals, numerous guajiros on horseback, and roughly-paved winding mountain road confirm the obvious: we have left the Cuba of Habana for a more distinct and ‘natural’ country. The rocky slopes bathed with tropical greenery, reach upwards toward the sky, whose usual monochrome blue has been replaced by a sea-green canvas, showered with peach rays and sprinkled with rolling clouds that seem impossible to believe. As magical as the sight of this land proved from the air, the ground view adds a sense of enormity and connection that a plane’s isolation could never match. Continue reading Pa’l Oriente pt. 2: Baracoa, where Columbus landed
“Cuando se acabó el racismo en Cuba [whem racism ended in Cuba]…”
This is the way a former Cuban basketball player began a sentence when I asked him about race and sports in modern Cuba. Yes, officially racism in Cuba ended in 1959, with the ‘eradication’ all legal forms of discrimination, thus racism no longer exists in this socialist utopia. Ha. Everybody on this island knows that that idea is nothing but an inane fantasy. Racism is a reality that black people in Cuba, including myself, face every time we are stopped by the police, interrogated by hotel staff, or stared at when walking with foreigners.
Continue reading Racismo? There is no racism in the Americas
Down the dusty highway toward aeropuerto José Marti, the afueras of Ciudad de la Habana raced past us so quickly that I scarcely saw any people, just the hot morning sun reflecting off a sea of tin roofs. After being delayed by someone who forgot that a passport is needed in order to fly, we arrived at the small orange and blue domestic terminal of the airport. Waiting in the terminal for our forgetful companion, I was slightly nervous about getting checked in to the flight on time, and slightly more concerned about putting my faith in a Cuban airplane.
Continue reading Pa’l Oriente pt.1: Trouble from the start
The aspect of habanero culture that has shocked me the most is the sense of community in the city. Before coming here I thought the years of intense defense of socialism and an intrusive state would have fostered a sense of paranoia throughout the island. But the exact opposite has proven to be true. The city contains upwards of 3 million people, but when I walk around with Cubans they seem to know at least three people on every street block, and they greet almost every acquaintance like a brother or sister.
Continue reading What does comunidad mean?
Last Saturday (Sep. 14th) our group took a Brown-funded excursion to an all-inclusive resort located in Varadero, in the Matanzas province of Cuba. Having never been to a resort like this, I was overjoyed. But making the transition from Habana to the Iberostar resort made the shock all the more real.
Continue reading One Night in Varadero