For the last two weeks of June we were completely off the grid. No phones, no internet, no access to ATMs, nothing. We were so incredibly bored that we don’t even want to talk about what happened. Instead, we want to share a post from our friends Eric and Shauna who coincidentally spent those same two weeks in Cuba. Enjoy!
Note: To maximize the feeling of the post, feel free to play the video below while reading.
We stood on the corner of the bustling street, hailing a cab with an outstretched arm. The shade of the multi-story buildings and gently blowing breeze were welcomed reliefs from the summer heat. A Chevy Bel Air rumbles to a halt in front of us and we climb onto the bench seat in the back. A young university student jumps into the front seat, sharing the taxi with us. The cabbie cruises down the strip while casually puffing on his cigar. A few minutes later we pay our $0.80 fare and he drops us off at our favorite ice cream shop.
This isn’t Chicago circa 1955, welcome to modern day Havana, Cuba.
Due to the US embargo that has been in effect since 1960, visiting the largest of Caribbean islands is like being sucked into a wormhole and being spat out a half century in the past. Cut off from a good majority of the companies of the world, they have truly mastered how to make what they have last. As a walk down just about any street will testify, anything necessary will be kept in working order for generations.
Cubans also have more in common with Latin America than just an insuppressible desire to dance. These helpful and friendly people really make you feel like an honored guest in their country. A warm “Buenas!” is a familiar sound and the service, quality, and portion size of the food served in ‘casa particulares’ (private houses similar to bed and breakfasts) is incredible. Initially I thought we were really lucky with our accommodations as we traveled, but I don’t think lightning strikes four times in a row by chance.
Foregoing new paint and replacement window panes, the well-worn look of Havana’s buildings adds to its charm. It doesn’t take much to imagine what Cuba was like at its peak as the glory of yesteryear is apparent at every turn. Getting a guided tour of any neighborhood is as easy as being recognized as a foreigner and usually only costs you the price of a mojito. One such tour in Habana Viejo took us up the spiraling marble staircase of an apartment building used in the Cuban movie “Fresa y Chocolate” and ended at a bar that frequently acted as a venue for Buena Vista Social Club. It made us grateful for our Cuba holidays.
Much like the negative connotations associated with socialism in America, the remaining time on the embargo is quickly running out. Once dissolved, visiting Cuba will be entirely different. Tourism is one of the main sources of revenue for the country, grossing almost $2 billion dollars annually. As they continue to invest in tourism (especially in Havana), they become poised to return to the days of grandeur.
If you haven’t been to Cuba yet, I wouldn’t put it off much longer- lest you miss your opportunity to experience the country in its present, subtle greatness.
Disclosure: The link in this post is sponsored.