Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wish you were here

No doubt you would have come across these figures in the past: despite the US commercial embargo, more than 2.3 million foreign tourists visited Cuba in 2005, compared to about 742,000 a decade earlier.

Most are from Canada, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy.

Plenty of Australians have visited, too.

And almost everyone returns home totally blown away by the experience - the physical beauty of a delapilated Havana, the music, the cigars, the friendliness of the people ... Entirely understandable. Tourists often see only what they want to see.

So, here is another take.

It's from Chris Welsch, a reporter with the US McClatchy Newspaper Group, writing about the reality behind the dual economy that is fueled by tourism and openly encouraged by the Castro regime:

"Some of the inequities created by dual economies are bitterly sad.

"Sitting at a restaurant in Havana's Chinatown, I watched two middle-aged, snaggle-toothed, potbellied British men - I am being kind - walk in with two teenage Cuban girls who probably would be modeling if they lived in Miami.

"The official government pay rate in Cuba is about $25 a month. Cuba's young women can earn more in an hour in bed with a tourist than anyone else can earn in a month of 40-hour weeks."

As I said, tourists often see only what they want to see.

Photo: Reuters


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there.

While I think that a democracy with a free market is a better system than communism (of which Cuba might be the best example), the goverment in Cuba have not been all that bad.

If you compare Cuba with Costa Rica (who is the champion of capitalism in Meso\South America) do you think that the people there in average, is more happy than on Cuba? Maybe a tiny bit more? Maybe a little less, we will never now, but I think that the difference is not that great.
Sure, Cuba does not have the possibility for the individual to progress in the way that you are allowed in capitalist countries. They are also a little short in supplies for some important things like food and medicine, and less importantly on many modern things we take for granted.
However there are many things on Cuba that I think "make up for it" if we could measure the average happiness of everyone and measure it.

Regarding the prostitution, it is sad that is one of few oppurtunities to make a lot of money on Cuba, but if you measured the average happiness of the prostitutes on Cuba, compared to on Costa Rica I think you would find the Cubans to be much happier.

In Costa Rica (as in most societies) it is most often the poorest that prostitute themselves. Also child prostitution is rampant in Costa Rica, from what I have read, but in Cuba there is no such or almost no such thing.

Also, are you so sure that the girls would be happier as models in Miami, than prostitutes in Cuba? In Cuba prostitutes are not very much loooked down upon (which is very important for the well being of the prostitute.)
A modeling career should give one a lot of boost to ones self-esteem, at least in the beginning, but there is a lot of darkness in the modeling industry as I'm sure you have read of. I'm not convinced that modeling is a less taxing occupation than prostitution in the long run.

Don't misunderstand me though. The much greater possibilties for the individual to choose one's career in most capitalist countries (provided you not are too poor to have any) is very important.

2:41 pm  
Blogger Luis M Garcia said...

Dear anonymous,

Thank you for your visit and for leaving a comment. Always appreciated.

I have no way of knowing whether the average Costa Rican is happier than the average Cuban. But I suspect that given half a chance, most Cubans would give an arm and a leg to be able to migrate to Costa Rica.

Re your comments about prostitution in Cuba, I agree that prostitution is prevalent elsewhere. I guess the difference is that the Castro regime publicly contends that prostitution is an evil capitalist practice that was "abolished" by the Revolution in 1959.

Again, while I have no imperical evidence at hand, I am pretty sure that young Cuban women would rather be models in Miami than jineteras in Havana.

9:44 am  

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