Bob and Roz Visit Cuba - and Howie too!
Bob and Roz Visit Cuba - and Howie too.
April 2, 2023
Earlier this year my friends Rosalind and Robert Alperstein visited Cuba. They each wote about their trip. They provided photos and a video of the highlights.
My friend Howie Sorkin also visited Cuba and sent me photos. Howie made a special effort to visit the Jewish community.
I have also attched a link to an essay by John Kiriakou
I agree with almost everything that John Kiriakou wrote except for what he said about the food. * My guess is that he only visited government-run restaurants which are supposed to be notoriously bad. We ate at Paradors which offered excellent meals with wonderful service.
We met with a former diplomat who was stationed all around the world including D.C. He is now a university professor. We had an interesting and insightful discussion. We also met with Robert Salas, a photographer of Fidel Castro going back to early 1950's. He shared his photographs and insights of Fidel and of the Vietnam War.
We visited a farm run by a husband and wife team. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch with their home grown products They disclosed that they joined a farm collective to make ends meet.
Finally, we had lunch at a private home and had a wonderful cooking lesson given by a delightful lady. Since she could not make a living as an architect, she used her excellent cooking skills to branch out into providing lunch and cooking lessons.
Everyone we met in Cuba was smart, kind, and open about their experiences and stories about their life in Cuba.
I believe Roz’s letter gives you a good idea of our impressions of Cuba. They are like those of John Kiriakou. *
Basically, we saw a country impoverished largely because of the USA’s imposition of an embargo for reasons that are no longer applicable. The city of Havana remains attractive but needs maintenance and repair. Havana is reminiscent of the Spanish architecture in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The countryside is beautiful and lush and paved with reasonable roads. Other cities we visited (e.g., Cienfuegos) especially the old portions, were lovely with many tourist attractions such as plantation homes and music venues.
Artist studios, music and dance companies and children’s music/dance schools were pleasing, especially when performances were done solely for us.
The Bay of Pigs was bright and peaceful. It is difficult to imagine an invasion with soldiers fighting and dying. A government museum contains propaganda about the invasion and Fidel’s role as the leader.
The people are vibrant and pleasant, trying hard to manage under the burdens of the embargo. They have done so with great difficulty but are in desperate need of foreign investment that would allow for a significant increase in tourism.
Small private enterprises are sprouting up as evidenced by the farm cooperative we visited. The owners had been professionals. The number of people allowed in each of these private enterprises is limited by the government. I suspect that eventually the system will resemble those in Vietnam and China as a mixture of socialism and capitalism.
The Cuban people appear to be strongly in favor of their socialist government primarily for the healthcare and educational opportunities that it provides.
Folks we met spoke freely with no indications of fear of retribution from the government.
Will the Cuban government remain authoritarian without democracy or freely elected leaders? Nobody knows. It will be up to the people to decide. Now they seem to be satisfied with what they have.
Our main purpose for visiting Cuba was for vacation and to see the current conditions. Roz and I wanted to compare Cuba to what we have seen in other developing countries.
Are American politicians providing accurate information?
The American political position seems to be driven by a few formerly wealthy Cuban property or business owners. Their losses are unfortunate, but after over sixty years it seems to us that US policy should be for the benefit of the greater “all”. Think Germany, Japan, Vietnam.
The questionnaire for the Cuban entrance visa had several acceptable reasons for entering the country. We chose “to help the Cuban people.” I think by increasing our knowledge of Cuba and its recent history and meeting Cuban citizens we accomplished that purpose.
Here is the link to "A Trip to Cuba" by John Kiriakou. Copy and paste the link in your browser.
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