Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy, happy Cubans

Another day, another article about Cuba, the great tourist destination …

You know the type: travel writer gets a free tip to Cuba paid for by the tour operator, has a terrific time walking the streets of Old Havana, visits La Bodeguita del Medio, drinks copious mojitos/daiquiris, smokes cigars and is totally won over by those happy, happy Cubans who seem to spend much of the day dancing in the middle of the street.

The latest effort appears in the travel section of several Australian newspapers owned by News Ltd.

The travel writer in question travelled to Cuba as a guest of The Captain’s Choice, a seriously upmarket Australian tour operator that organises all-inclusive, luxury tours to exotic destinations. Like Cuba.

And as expected, she was generally enchanted by Fidel Castro’s paradise.

But it seems that not all of those on the tour were convinced.

“Some of our group become distressed during a visit to Havana's state cigar factory, angrily branding it ‘a sweatshop’,” the reporter writes.

“Perhaps our group is guilty of judging Cuban living and working conditions by Australian standards.

“While it would be wrong to make light of the poverty that afflicts Cuba, the people do seem content – more so than your average Westerner. The complete absence of capitalism means Cubans are not obsessed with getting the latest plasma TV, the biggest house or reading the latest celebrity gossip magazine.

“Instead, people get together to talk, socialise and spend time with their families and friends.”

See? You don’t need capitalist luxuries like a plasma TV or a big house of even a magazine to be happy in revolutionary Cuba.

Now, for the record, if you’d gone on The Captain’s Choice tour of Cuba, you would have travelled in your own, chartered and “fully staffed” Qantas 747 plane, you would have stayed only at five star hotels, and you would have had your own English-speaking guides throughout – plus a “team of escorts” to help with luggage, etc.

Oh, yes, and your own private doctor, available around the clock.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you been to Cuba in the past 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? if not you can't speak about the cuban 'vibe'.

Listen I am no castro lover, can't wait to see him go (and I pray for cuba to open up) but as someone who has a cuban wife and has spent much time in cuba over the past 5 years - it is true - that author's statement that the people are more content than a typical western (as are most latin americans in general). . . and it is also wise not to judge cuba by USA eyes but through the prism of the third world. . its analytically incorrect to compare cuba to usa outcomes, more correct to compare cuba with DR or Jamica or even Barbados.

Yes, Cuba needs freedom Political and economic! but don't prentend to know if cubans are happy or not, I bet you've never been there in years! while the Austrialian author is overly romantic (helped by her five star hotels) that doesn't take away from the main point -- cubans in general are more content than cuban americans for example.. if you don't believe me walk around the streets of havana and then come back and report.. sure there are horrible parts of habana, but there are horrible parts of miami too.

cuba libre! but please stop seeing them as if you think you know what the f** is going on down there. .if you haven't been there in years,, then you really have no clue and just see the country through the prism of miami (yet another reason to open up family visits- to get you guys to see what the hell is going on down there and how its really too late. the brain washing has been too strong down there.. it will never just change as you want it.. its anothter culture altogether. thansk for hearing my ramblings.

2:42 pm  
Blogger Val Prieto said...

who is this anonymous idiot?

11:09 pm  
Blogger Henry Gomez said...

Luis, I saw this article in my news alert an immediately thought of you.

As for anonymous, you are right. What does Luis know, he only experienced Castro's Cuba first hand?

And what do all the recent arrivals in Miami know (more 125,000 in the last 7 years) about the "vibe" in Cuba? They only had to flee it.

Anonymous, you should follow Mark Twain's advice: keep your mouth closed and let people think you are fool rather than open it and remove all doubt.

3:40 am  
Blogger Luis M Garcia said...

Thanks, Val, Henry,

I mean, where do you start?

One thing I'll say about Anonymous: he is a lucky man. Married to a Cuban and able to visit (and leave) the island any time he likes.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Morgan Bell said...

i was just asking my dad about this today "do you think Cubans are happy?"

i was reading about the booming tourism industry, and the "health tourists", and remembering the generousity depicted in Michael Moore's Sicko, and thinking Cuba seems to be run well even though there is no democracy

i dont know that much about Castro - do the Cuban people consider him a ruthless dictator? or is he liked?

i ask these questions sincerely, i have never met anyone from Cuba before

12:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I travelled around Cuba 3 years ago, staying with cuban families, talking to people in the parks and think I got a fair taste of the vibe as it was at that time. It was clear then that things are already changing. Quite a few people that had money also had big flat screen televisions. Some people warned me about increasing crime, although I never felt remotely threatened (although I saw a fair amount of contraband). However, almost all of the people that I spoke to were of course envious of the fact that the foreigners that came seemed to have more opportunities and more stuff than them, and were looking forward to change. However, with that said - amongst most of the people that I met there was an acceptance that they would have to wait for change, and in those circumstances the best way to deal with it is to make the most of what you have and cherish each opportunity that comes your way - it is this attitude which gives the people a reputation for being happy. As the country opens up more and more you can't help but suspect that some people will look back to a simpler time when crime was relatively low and people were "happy", just like my grandparents in England did.

3:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just came from Havana and stayed with a family and met many cubans, both rural and gay, old and young, by and large they are happy with castro save the gays. There is a magic in Cuba, I resist being judemental about other ways of living but I will say this, the casa owner asked us not to mention the lobster meal in the Trip Advisor.

2:29 pm  
Blogger Satya's Girl said...

Yes, saw in many charts Cubans are somehow happier than the rest of the populations, and asked myself why. maybe it's in their genes. I never saw a latin stressing too much with the worries of the life in don't know how many years, and I always liked how open minded they are.

7:43 pm  

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