My final thoughts and insights of our holiday in Cuba. To get the complete story read part 1, 2 and 3.
Cuba leaves one with very mixed feelings - sadness at the abuse of the people by a failed system - anger at another example of America's bullying - resignation that it's another example of meaningless liberation - acceptance that revolutionaries can't build.
In many areas the sugar cane looks to be poor quality? There are fields of tall flowering sugar cane that should have been harvested. There are banana plantations with yellow leaves? There’s a lot of underutilised land that could be used for crops.
Is the problem access to seeds and fertilizer and pesticides? Or is it that people don’t care and state run agriculture is a failure?
Passing farms, there were many fence posts that have taken root and in some cases grown into trees! Does this not suggest agricultural potential?
Life in Cuba
Travel in Cuba is safe. Areas which in cities in America would be drug infested and controlled by gangs are normal apartment communities. Although the buildings are in a poor state of repair the areas are clean and secure.
Is the music a celebration or an escape? There is music and there are musicians but they perform and then expect a payment. Suggesting a job rather than a passion.
Many people are sitting around and on the streets. We heard that Cuba has no unemployment? Are these people unemployed?
From early morning till late in the evening there are vendors on bicycles or pushing trolleys selling what sounds like “guavas, tomatoes and magaleet”. Eking out a living.
The one item that’s in abundance in Cuba is fresh and delicious fruit. Especially guavas which are served in every form – jelly, paste and juice.
While the concrete highways are crumbling money is being wasted on statues, banners and ceremonies. Freedom and revolution slogans plastered everywhere and the propaganda department is kept busy.
The railways are substandard, unreliable and not suitable for tourists. If not used for passengers, they could at least form a vital heavy transport link saving the roads from being destroyed by heavy truck traffic.
Even with the low volume of traffic the quality of the roads is very poor. Sanitation systems are inadequate. The water quality is suspect. Who knows the state of bridges?
There is no organisation of the taxi industry. As we evidenced one day as groups of taxi drivers and “fixers” were having a shouting match. Fares are “negotiated” so with no reference tourists are in an ideal position to be ripped off. At every level there appears to be someone taking a cut. This is understandable with the low wages but it's an issue in creating a tourist industry with any integrity.
Viazul the so called premium Cuban bus company needs a lot of improvement. It requires management leadership to make it comparable with other countries vying for tourists.
With limited contact with the outside world. Not analysing and understanding their competitors the people are unaware there is a world outside competing for their tourist business. The “Cuba’s a fascinating place” as a basis for visiting Cuba is a thin veneer. It will quickly be rubbed away if the total experience is not memorable.
Both buses and collectivo taxis slow down at various bridges or designated areas along the road. Slowing down and keeping your head down hoping that the dreaded hand of the law is not raised.
The police controls are characterised by one to three policemen with motor bikes who watch the cars go by. Not a very strenuous task ... as a mix of cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes pass at the rate of a few an hour.
Stopping any vehicle must be an arbitrary decision as most vehicles look unroadworthy.
- After our holiday in Cuba I was left with the impression that it's a sad place. The people are accepting and resigned.
- The people are exploited by the government in a form of legalized slavery.
- The system and the government has failed the people.
- Cuba is far behind the rest of the world in technology.
- The system has very screwed up priorities.
- You can decide for yourself.
Some Useful Apps
maps.me - Download the map of Cuba ... ideally before you arrive.
Google translate - Typing only - very slow