El, Presidente es murte, viva El Presidente!
As Cuba bids Farwell to Fidel Castro, its colourful, controversial & utterly iconic leader, the world is wondering what is next for the tiny, Caribbean island. Whilst power was successfully transited to Fidel’s brother Raul, some are nevertheless questioning how much longer the revolution can live on for.
In many ways Cuba has been frozen in time since the 1960’s although with advances such as wi-fi gradually creeping in, the tide of modernity and arguably westernisation is now rising. Should the regime either fall or bow out gracefully, then change will surely come rapidly and dramatically. What precisely these changes may entail, we can only speculate but it does seem inevitable that in opening up the world the character of the island will change forever.
Therefore you should visit Cuba before its too late and here are my top 7 as to why you should visit now!
The classic cars will finally be scrapped!
Because of severe trade restrictions, Cuba has struggled to import motor vehicles over the last 50 years. Therefore the cars that were on the road when the embargo was set are still on the road today! Cuban mechanics have honed the craft of working miracles and bringing these tired machines back from the dead on countless occasions.
Whilst this has been something of a frustration for Cubans who want nothing more than to drive around in an air conditioned Vauxhall Corsa, tourists absolutely love these classic designs & the novelty of riding in them. Guests at hotels are already recording disappointment at being collected from the airport in shiny, air conditioned vans rather than big, spluttering rust buckets so it seems that once the free markets enter ,it will only be a matter of time before the classics are replaced by faster, cleaner, greener, soulless cars like you have back home.
The soundtrack will get worse
Cuba is one of the few places in the world where nightclubs do not assault your ears with loud, violent, techno and hip-hop. Instead, Cuban revellers salsa the night away in a 3/4 tempo to the jive of a live band. Cuba is famously the definitive place in the world to learn, watch or even listen to Salsa. One of the reasons for this is because electronic instruments have been hard to get hold off as have the loud speaker PA systems needed for large scale nightclub performances. Once these items are made readily available it seems inevitable that Cuban nightlife will go the way of the rest of Latin America and sacrifice live Salsa for men pressing “play” on a laptop.
Cuba has the best street life
In Cuba, widescreen, flat screen, HD TV’s are kinda hard to get hold off as are iPod’s and Play stations. The terrible, inhumane consequence of this shortage of such basic human needs is that poor Cuban’s are forced to pass their time by going outside, sitting in the sun and actually talking to one another…
In case your irony alarm is not working, I love street life and Cuba has the best in the world. The street (or “La Calle”) is essentially a big social club and talking to your neighbors or complete strangers is a way of life. Coming from an increasingly isolated Northern Europe (where more and more people don’t even need to leave their house to of to work anymore), this feels liberating and like a forgotten paradise of what human interaction should be like. A stroll through the alleys and boulevards of Havana, just meeting people on the street, is one of the very best things to do in the city.
Prices may go up…
This is hard one to call and economic speculators have already been found wanting on countless occasions so far this century. Right now, Cuba is not exactly cheap for travellers as the dual economy means that tourists end up paying the western price for food & accommodation (Marx did say “to each according to their needs and from each according to their abilities”..). However Cuba is still cheap compared to most of the Caribbean so it kind of stands to reason that the hotel syndicates who priced most of us out of Barbados & Jamaica will at least try to do the same here. Caribbean islands are after all, prime real estate and once there are enough luxury, gated hotels shooing the smelly locals away, vacuous millionaires will pay a pretty penny to come here and to not have to share it with you.
Food glorious Food
In Cuba there is no McDonalds, Starbucks or Subway. Cuban food is notoriously basic (latin America on the whole is not exactly leading the way in cuisine) but its still better than McDonalds, Stabucks & Subway. At least the basic diet of wholesome food keeps people thin, in a western world on the brink of an obesity epidemic we could learn from this.
Cuba is the last accessible communist state in the world
Communism was essentially consigned to histories rubbish heap with the fall of the USSR. Discounting the sinister & balmy North Korea, Cuba is therefore left as the last bastion of an ideology & social experiment which shaped the world. Whilst we can argue the pro’s and con’s of communism and what it has meant for Cuba, the fact remains that its influence across the world was profound and is therefore worthy of respect.
Essentially, Cuba is something of a living museum to a way of life that has seemingly gone forever. I for one find this utterly compelling and the chance to speak to people raised under this ideology is truly enlightening.
They have the best rum in the world
THE CIGARS AIN’T BAD EITHER.
OK so my personal favourite brand of rum actually comes from Venezuela but aside from that Cuba makes the best stuff on the planet. An abundance of sugar cane and a thirst for good times means there are a whopping … rum distilleries in the island many of which you can visit. Bacardi & Sailor Gerry’s all trace their origins to Cuba although these days the locals drink lesser known but infinitely better brands. Mojito’s are made with generous applications of the sugary spirit and will fuel you for an all night salsa & socialism session.