I wrote this post the day I got back from Cuba, over 2 months ago. But I didn’t have the guts to publish it… However, after having read this honest and inspirational post from Liz of Young Adventuress I decided I did not want my own self-doubt holding me back from publishing this post.
I don’t want to listen to the annoying voice in my head telling me my writing is terrible. That nobody wants to read about my thoughts and feelings about Cuba. That I cannot express myself good enough to do justice to the country. It may all be true but I no longer want to care.
This is my blog, which I started to share my travel experiences. So I finally pressed the publish button…
I have given it a lot of thought why Cuba and its people touched a nerve and why I felt the sorrow of this country so much more than the countries in Southeast Asia I visited. Because obviously there are issues there too. I think it’s because in Cuba I spoke with people in their own language. My Spanish, limited as it may be, enabled me to talk with many people in Cuba. In their own tongue. I think that’s what made the difference.
The problems in Cuba are not necessarily bigger or smaller than in other countries in the world. I just know more about the problems because people told me about them…
Cuba has so many facets and it’s difficult for me to describe how Cuba made me feel. On the one hand people are so kind, happy and welcoming. But on the other hand they are suffering. There are shortages of basic goods like clothes and toiletries.
There is no freedom of speech and press and it’s difficult to determine how much people can say and how much they are not saying.
The amazing classic cars may be very beautiful, but they break down all the time and consume a lot of fuel, making it difficult to keep them going. There is no alternative so people do their utmost to keep them running.
If you don’t own a classic car, motorcycle or bicycle, you can safely hitchhike everywhere. But it’s not because you like it, it’s because you have no other choice.
The luck of the poor doesn’t last very long is how one of the people I spoke with described it.
“We are happy because we have bananas. But we have no oil to fry them in”.
“We are happy because we have new shoes. But after a week the shoes are broken because of poor quality”.
“We are happy the engine of our car is working. But now we have a flat tire”.
No es facil en Cuba, life isn’t easy…
Yes, I tried to help by giving away some clothes, some money, some shampoos, soaps, pens… But I cannot give them the guarantee it will get better. For one, I don’t know if the embargo will be lifted.
As the Cubans say: we know it cannot get worse than the past. I would love to ensure them the future will be better. Honestly, I don’t know…
Because, what will happen if the embargo is lifted? What will happen now that some people have access to luxury goods? Or own their own (expensive) houses near the beach?
What will happen with the incredible Cuban sense of community, helping each other out, being there for each other, sharing everything with each other because that’s all there is.
Yes, I would love for the Cuban people to have it all, but I would hate to see the unique culture and values of Cuban culture destroyed because of materialism. Because of money, property and things… Things don’t matter.
Family does! Friends do! Being there for each other does!
But yes, you obviously need a minimum amount of basic things to get by. So who am I to talk, having all those basic things and more…
If there is nothing, life is hard…
Cuba… it’s a country of contrasts. A country I have difficulty with to put into words. A country that has welcomed me with nothing but smiles and kindness, a country on a crossroad in time.
We’ll see what the future holds for Cuba, vamos a ver…
Want to learn more about Cuba and it’s turbulent history? Check out this extensive Cuba book list by my friend Carol.
Have you ever visited a country that touched a nerve? Which country was it and why?