Recommended: Travel Solo to Havana
If children are our future, the children of Havana give me hope.
One cannot go to Cuba without an overwhelming sense that all is about to change. Castro’s health continues to be precarious. A Communist Party Congress in a couple of weeks will replace him as leader. And then… who knows.
As a solo traveler there, I felt very safe. It was a fascinating city to spend a week on my own.
But I also felt the urgency with which adults live their daily lives. Small cramped apartments, poorly stocked government stores, and a daily taunting by the North American lifestyle that arrives via tourists, satellite and the web all conspire to create a culture of great want. Not necessarily great need, but definitely a hunger for more.
As a result, I met many people with typical government jobs who hustled a bit of business on the side to make money off the tourist trade. There was the taxi driver who gave day tours for $50 – almost triple what he would make in a normal day. Street performers busking quite successfully. Artists selling their work in doorways. Dancers (or not) willing to teach how to salsa!
Tourism has grown dramatically in Havana in the past two decades. After the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, Cuba lost billions in subsidies. Eusebio Leal, the official historian of Havana who had been working slowly on the restoration of the old city was given the green light to speed things up. Since then, hundreds of landmark Spanish Colonial buildings as well as nightclubs and hotels from the first fifty years of the twentieth century have been refurbished. Tourists such as I responded. The profits generated from tourism have been redirected into more development.
Now is an excellent time to go to Havana. Much restoration has been completed. Much will soon change. I consider myself fortunate to have visited the country before whatever happens, happens.
It will be interesting to see what those beautiful, enthusiastic children do with their country.
Horn of Plenty
Horn of Plenty is a Cuban film I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival a few years ago. I couldn’t find a trailer with English subtitles but you can see the great production values and I’ll tell you a bit of the story. It deals with a small town that suddenly has the prospect of a lot of money – for some of the citizens only. News is heard of an inheritance for the Castineiras family. The problem is, there are two lines of this family and no one is sure which line is eligible for the inheritance. People start banding together to get the money and all hell breaks out. It’s a comedy. It’s great.