Cuba: An earthly paradise
By Eduardo Mora
As I am writing this article, I do so with the utmost respect for the Cubans and the readers. I will try not to fall into cliché and ridiculous generalizations and will also try to be honest. I should clarify that, more than a well-documented and impartial article, this is an essay of my perhaps biased perception of my few days’ visit to Cuba. It is not my intention to criticize the Cuban politicians or the Cuban people. I just want to share my experience in the hope it will be useful for those of you who are thinking of visiting this beautiful island.
For many people, Cuba is the earthly paradise Dante described in his divine comedy. Yet for many others it is a symbol of the “failed communist regime,” an architecture trapped in time, an educated society, a happy society, an oppressed society. For many others, Cuba is simply an exotic destination to go to on vacation, see old cars, enjoy the sun, the sand, the Cuban cigars, the rum, the mojitos, the delicious food, the nights of endless music at the waterfront promenade in La Habana or drinks with friends at La Bodeguita del Medio (remembering Ernest Hemingway). The truth is that, like any other country, Cuba is what you want it to be. For me as a real estate agent, an international business person and a lover of traveling, Cuba was all of the above and much more.
From the economic point of view, Cuba is truly a case study. The country has two currencies, one that is used by the tourists (CUC/Convertible Cuban Peso, which has a one-to-one exchange rate with the US), and the one used by the locals (CUP/Cuban Peso), which has a value of $US.035. In other words one US dollar is worth about 28 times as much as a Cuban peso. This is confusing for tourists, but also for locals who live in less touristy places and do not know how to work with the CUC. It also creates conflict for the restaurants that have different prices depending on whether you are a tourist or a local. However, what struck me the most were the wages of the professionals I had the opportunity to meet. One of these professionals is Alberto (Albertico), an architect who went to one of the best universities in Cuba, got a scholarship to finish his career in Russia and ended up back in Cuba working for a ridiculously low salary.
Because of my job as a real estate agent, I have the opportunity to see some of the most spectacular houses in San Miguel, so when I was walking around the streets of La Habana or any of the other cities, I could not help but see some of the ruined buildings and picture them in their glory days. The Cuban architecture is a contrast. It is a symbol of the foreign invasion, the brotherhood among the Latin American nations, a legacy of past glory days, with ruins that raise their eyes to the sky and drop their shoulders to the ground; like fearless giants that choose to fall at once, rather than wait for time to have mercy on them.
Like many Latin American countries, Cuba has much diversity. You can be walking on the streets and find a person whose skin is as pale as the salt from the sea and eyes like Caribbean blue-green water. Yet on the same street you will find a person darker than the darkest coffee, whose hip movements remind us that one can sing without using the mouth. The mixture of these people is like poetry dedicated to human beauty. Before I went to Cuba, I knew all of this; I knew that Cuban people are by nature friendly, hardworking and full of joy. But once I was on the island, I realized that some of them sing because they don’t want to cry,-and some of them dance to have a glimpse of freedom.
Visiting this beautiful island reminded me that socialism is an ideal for which we all should aim. If we humans were able to get rid of our ambitions and truly live under a socialist society, we would have an ideal world without inequalities, without wars, without hunger and with dignity. I am hopeful one day, one country will be willing to explore the idea of a genuine implementation of socialism