The Unique Island Country of Cuba and Its People
As a teacher and history buff Cuba has always held a great fascination for me. I was hesitant to travel there on the first occasion not knowing what to expect in such a country with suppressive politics.
My fears as a tourist were quickly put to rest. But many of my preconceived notions of restricted freedom of the people was in fact reinforced. My first visit was in 1991 and at that time American currency was the only money tourists could use to purchase goods and services. Most Cubans in possession of the currency however were subject to penalties. I had even heard from one source that a day in jail was the penalty for each American dollar found in their possession. $10....ten days. I could never confirm this but by the actions of the people I met I was inclined to believe it.
I had also seen signs posted encouraging political dissidents to be turned in for unpatriotic actions or attitudes.
Despite what the people faced with shortages of goods such as toiletries, toothpaste and cooking oil most seemed resigned to the facts of their lives and rose above it with a zest for life, humour, family ties and above all the ability to innovate adapt and flourish with what little they had. Cubans did not see hard work and toil as anything outside the norm and they rose to that challege as well.
After more than 12 visits to all parts of the country and never being fearful to explore off the resort (crime was extremely rare), I enjoyed meeting many Cubans and their families.
I spent a wonderful new year in a small seaside concrete abode where a family of husband wife and three children resided with just curtains and blankets strung from the ceiling to create rooms. The only separate structural room was a small kitchen.
A pig was roasted and all the trimmings were laid out including lots of rum from a deep plastic pale. We drank and laughed as I practiced my Spanish and they their English. We danced and ate and sang. I was treated like family and we kept in touch over the years.
Another year I was invited into Holguin the third largest city in Cuba by my Tres Amigos who roamed the beach playing guitar and bongos. We hired a local to drive us in his old Chevy from Guardalavaca to Holguin, then come back in three days to take us back to the beach town. The driver also took us all around Holguin for two of the three days. It was the best $25.00 I had ever spent. We loaded the car up with nice aged black rum Havana Rum. I believe at that time the rum was aged five years and fairly smooth. Havana Club
and American cigarettes which cost about $20.00. My amigos bought the goods with Cuban pesos, rather than me buying it with American dollars in a tourist shop.
I could revel in many more stories of my travels but my pictures in this Gallery will say so much more while leaving room for you to imagine and ponder those moments of life in Cuba that I experienced and was privileged to witness over a 12 year period.
God willing I will go back again to see old friends and meet new ones.
PS: If you are ever in Canada we do sell The Havana Club rums and I highly recommend the 7 Year. Black and Smooth, no burn, and the after taste is simply the same fresh taste even in a burp.