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Mercedes González Amade: I'm 38 years old and physically challenged. I struggle daily in this life be it on crutches or in a wheelchair. I have a 12-year-old son who is my main inspiration and for who I have fought tooth and nail. I hold a position in the governmental institution that serves the handicapped in my part of the capital. In the afternoons I practice tennis well away from where I live. My intention with Havana Times is to help spread the desire to live and to do so with dignity, especially to persons with physical and motor difficulties.

Booking a Vacation in Cuba

June 17, 2016 | Print Print |

Mercedes Gonzalez Amade

Illustration by Carlos

Illustration by Carlos

HAVANA TIMES — I try and book my holidays every year at Los Cocos, a campsite that has two cabins built specifically to accommodate people with special needs. That’s not nearly enough cabins for the three associations of people with disabilities we have here in the capital (ACLIFIM, ANSOC, ANCI) and we all have the right to enjoy ourselves. That’s why, for two months now, I’ve been calling up their offices to find out when they’ll start selling bookings for the summer.

Two days after they’d started selling, I went to 60th and 31st Streets to the offices belonging to Playa municipality’s popular campsite company and I saw a horrific sight: you had to pay 15 CUC (Cuba’s US dollar equivalent) just to stand in line. Some people had been sleeping there for a few days now just to keep their spot in the queue.

I approached a security guard so as to use the priority I have for being of my disability. I tried to get out of harm’s way because the line to make bookings was being formed along a main street near a stoplight and I was practically in the road. Add sun and rain to the equation, which were taking turns that day and you can imagine what it was like. The man didn’t know what to tell me and called for the person in charge of the situation.

I had to tell this person my problem through a gate, however, the response was clear: there’s no priority, there’s a queue and I’m going to have to wait it out just like everybody else. I wanted to show him the notice I had from the Ministry of Domestic Commerce, but he refused quite brutally to look at it  and left me speechless.

I had to wait six long hours – and there was nearly a riot amongst the people who had been waiting their turn just like me – but in the end, they saw me. However things didn’t end there. There were long flights of stairs waiting for me and a narrow door which my wheelchair couldn’t get through; I had to stand up and close it.

Finally, I was able to book my holiday, even though I discovered that prices had gone up, which nobody had informed us about.

Lack of information, bad manners, a lack of ethical behavior and dehumanization shouldn’t be allowed anywhere, much least at a place which supposedly offers a service to the people. It’s also unfathomable that, in the 21st century, they don’t take into account the possibility that a person with special needs like me may come here. It was a very unpleasant experience and to top it all I wasn’t able to book my holidays in the summer, the only dates available were in September.


What's your opinion?

  • Cuba Visitor

    Mercedes,
    I am very sorry to hear about your ordeal. I have a very close friend who also uses a wheelchair. I have been inviting him to go to Cuba with me, but I am very concerned that he will not be able to get around in Havana. Are there any wheelchair accessible vans available for rent in Havana? Thank you for any information you can provide.