Friday, May 4, 2012


Ted and just got back from a week in Havana, Cuba. Travel there for Americans has opened up a bit, so you can go on "good will" tours, which basically means you are with a group and you get to learn about Cuba from their perspective.  If I was going to compare the country with anywhere else, it most reminds me of Bolivia, with the lush vegetation and crumbling buildings. We were told by one of the guides that 8 buildings a day fall down in Havana, but now that more money is coming in, they are starting to rescue some of these beautiful old buildings.

People are now allowed to own their homes, which is a remarkable change from when the government owned everything, but when we got back to Miami, a young Cuban American told us that can change at a moments notice, and the government can just take them away again if they want.
I had expected more of a police state, with soldiers roaming around, guns visible, but there was none of that.

I expect we were being kept track of, but we seemed to be able to go off on our own during our free time, to bars and shopping, with no restrictions.

The old American cars were very cool, they are used for taxis now.

I would guess about 50% of the cars we saw were early american.  I'm not sure how they repair them, but

they were everywhere.

We saw lots of pictures and posters of Che, but very few of Fidel.  We were told this was because they do not honor current leaders, only former. Our guide told us no one knows where he lives, or where he's going to be buried when he dies.

Above is the beautiful Hotel Nacional where we stayed.  It looks like it was built in the 30's or 40's and not much has changed since then.  This is the patio where we sat in the afternoon, me drinking a beer, and Ted smoking a cigar, watching the people, being serenaded by local musicians.

We visited a local organic farm that is one of the many businesses now being allowed to be owned 50% by the employees, 50% by the government.

The people working there are very happy with this arrangement, they are allowed to make decisions that affect them directly, so they are more invested in their work.

We took some supplies to a local school.  Education is free here, with a small cost for the uniforms, but they don't have any supplies, like pencils, paper, crayons. The government pays for your college education, and in return you must give a year of service back, either through the military or volunteering.

I'm kind of a cemetery junkie, and this one did not disappoint.  We were told that after being buried for a few years, the bones are dug up and placed in a storage unit to make room for more burials.

Cuban art is typically very colorful.  We visited an area where the religion of Santeria is practiced, and

saw some gorgeous artwork painted on the buildings.

This was such a great experience for us, something we feel very fortunate to have done.

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