I can say that with certainty that the climax of our trip to Latin America absolutely was our time in Cuba, but not for the reasons you may think. It was an fairly easy task to travel into the country that has alluded Americans for the past several decades. With President Obama’s decision to begin normalizing US/Cuban relations it was with a sense of excitement and wonder that Mike and I approached our trip. It was everything and nothing I expected to experience!
Here I am standing in front of the US Embassy with a hope and a prayer that the Cuban people will one day soon have lives that allow them to prosper and live to their fullest potential. May they be free from governments that oppress and hinder their freedoms, whether that be from their own Castro regime or foreign governments.
We are picked up at the airport by an elegant, handsome looking man sent by Intrepid Tours. He is talkative and as we drive from the airport into La Havana, he shares openly about his life, shares pictures of his family and is very candid about his country. My initial reaction as we approach the city of Havana is the realization of all my romantic notions about the country and it’s truly like traveling back in time… we see the old American cars of the 40’s and 50’s… the colonial era buildings… the exotic looking people… it will forever to be one of my favorite moments of the trip. However, as I listen to our driver another reality comes to life, he is a taxi driver and makes more than twice as much as his sister who is a doctor, the government rations are not enough to sustain anyone, and mostly those that prosper are those involved in tourism. While none of this is a surprise in a communist country, as we travel coming face to face with real people living this reality, it is overwhelming.
We, unlike the locals, had the luxury of staying at the beautiful Hotel Nacional. Tourism is alive and well in Havana already, and imagining the new flood of visitors from the USA, as restictions are relaxed, make us wonder how the lives of Cubans will be forever changed. Our hope is that not the government but the citizens of this beautiful country are the beneficiaries of the new changes in government and the improving economy.
Our favorite mode of transportation!
As we experience the kindness, hospitality and goodness of the people here we realize the time has come for the average Cuban citizen’s life to improve. We had the privilege of many home stay visits as we traveled through the country and making a connection with the people here was priceless. Here I am with our hostess Zoe in Vinales, Cuba.
One of the homes we stayed in.
Music is everywhere and seems to be one of the best remedies for the troubles and hardships people face.
Mike was blessed with a conga lesson from a seasoned musician in the town of Trinidad.
On to the more positive aspects of the trip. Our Intrepid guide was Tony and we both agreed that he was one of the best guides we have ever had the pleasure knowing. He shared his country, both the good and bad, with candor and humor. He is intelligent and informed and he made every effort to make sure we had a diverse and worthwhile experience. We cannot praise him enough.
Traveling through the countryside we visited a tobacco farm and were treated with viewing the whole harvesting process and even the rolling of a cigar. We also had a wonderful evening on the beach with food, a bonfire and a musical group to entertain and delight us! An unforgettable night! Thanks to all who made it possible.
Portrait of Fidel Castro in the Museo de La Revolucion. History will record his legacy…