Thursday, July 16, 2009
I am currently working on a broadcast in Cuba. This is not my first time to interesting Island in the Caribbean but it is my first time working here as a professional journalist. So upon landing at the surreal Jose Marti International airport you soon realize how economically hobbled this place really is. It is a mix of 50s/60s with a dose of the present. Imagine women hosts outside of the mens rooms (everyone gets a job in a communist country) and then CNN on flat screen t.v's..
Once passed immigration we were met by our hosts and I use this term loosely. Instead of taking a soviet era cab or my favorite "Coco taxis" (yellow coconut shaped tricycle taxis) were traveled in a modern toyota van to our hotel. Down town Habana is like a shot from the past old colonial architecture most of which is crumbling, old 50's American Chevy's and dodges, litter the streets. Homages everywhere to Fidel and Che' still with a fairly closed communist system the people are happy. Sure there is food rationing, lack of many modern convinces but not much less than other so called democratic Caribbean Countries.
The things I love about this country are the people, food, music and it's disheveled beauty. A pace where people gather in the oppressive afternoon heat and discuss baseball, music, literature. About Literature Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. and the highest in North America. So much for communists keeping there people uneducated. This allows for so much wonderful banter everywhere you go. Nothing like a well read half drunk populous.
Cuba sees the beauty in simple things like, food, drink, and music so for a degenerate food obsessed so called intellectual like me I feel right at home here. Any place that came up with Mojitos and Cuban sandwiches to me is Epicurean meca. Some of the odd things are the two currencies, one for locals and one for tourists. But everyone accepts u.s. dollars even though there is still the stupid embargo.
Cubans laugh at the embargo and so do I. Canadians can enjoy this friendly country and so can Americans if they travel here from Mexico, Jamaica or another Caribbean country. They will welcome anyone.
Granted this is not a modern city the architecture like I said is a mix of Caribbean Colonial and soviet concrete the later of which can be so off putting it does not belong here not in the Caribbean where there is sun, heat and humidity so high you almost need gills not lungs. But more in place where there is lots of snow, mail order bridezillas and men in track suits gold chains and long leather jackets.
our hotel is a Batista era grand old hotel that Hemingway used to stay in with the classic noisy ceiling fans and dark oak bar where yes they claim the Mojito was invented. The Mojito is the perfect drink for this city. Cool refeshing mint and rum it makes you feel like you should be wearing a white linen suit and Panama hat whilst worrying if the revolution is really coming or not.
That is some of the beauty of this place eternally trapped in the 50's by Americas backyard kids fight. So you wander the streets of old Havana, seeing people repairing their old 50's us cars with such a pride. Entering a small cafe for yet another Mojito or a cervasa you are quickly asked where you are from. In my party we are all Canadian but it seems everyone here knows someone in our cities. We talk baseball ( a real religion here ) we talk about snow, and imagine a man who sells eggs for a living even knows stuff about our prime minister. Just ask an American who the prime minister of Canada is wait to see that disparaging look come across his or her's face. So we settle down gnaw on some smoked pigs ears drink a beer and enjoy our new friends.
Hospitality is one thing but this place is unreal. Everywhere we go we are invited to come over for dinner, lunch breakfast. From people who barely have enough for there own families. They Love their little country and love when tourists leave the sterile western resorts to see the real Cuba.
My next post i will discuss the Tourist resorts of Cuba and how they are like any place in Cancun and not the Cuba that you should experience.