My Reflection on Cuba

January 11, 2017 | Print Print |

by Marta Lopez Penoucos* 

Photo: Cecilia E Pericich

HAVANA TIMES — It’s difficult to explain how somebody from Spain, with their mentality and life, sees Cuba.  When we began our journey last summer, I didn’t have a very clear idea of what modern-day Cuba was and I must say it would have been pretentious of me to try and understand this country in the 13 days we were there, but I can explain my impressions and the emotions I experienced during this trip.

I discovered a friendly people, not sweet-talkers or submissive, they are a proud people of what they have and they defend their land and, although recognizing the limited situation they live in and the fact that they need foreign help, firmly declare that they won’t let anyone come from abroad and “tell the Cuban people how they have to live.”

I have seen a bipolar country in many regards. The first, the Cuba for tourists and the Cuba for Cubans. They treat travelers with great care and I think that this friendliness must be a mix of their own generous personality combined with the need to look after their main source of income, us tourists.

I saw a very out-dated Cuba whenever technology was involved, be that industry or equipment. Yes, I know that they have suffered a harsh blockade but I find myself asking how it’s been possible for Cubans to not fight for their own industry or autonomous development in a certain field during the boom they experienced with Soviet aid. I didn’t see any strong industrial sectors apart from tobacco manufacture and if I stretch myself to say the sugar factories, but even with all of this, these are industries which are completely out-of-date and as soon as Cuba manages to open itself to the international market, they won’t have the minimum conditions they need to be competitive.

Photo: Cecilia E Pericich

A lot of money needs to be invested in this country, money which Cubans themselves don’t have and I’m afraid that when foreign powers come wanting to “help” Cuba, it’ll be likely that the country will have to pay a price and give into external pressure to make changes which will favor foreign investors more than the Cuban people. Maybe it’s going to an extremely high price, but it seems to me that the current situation of Cubans today is becoming and more unsustainable and the hardest thing in all of this isn’t the shortage of financial means but a lack of personal freedom such as being able to move freely or express your ideas.

Nonetheless, I have come across a joyful people with a zeal for life who are born survivors more than anything else.  They are creative out of necessity when faced with the many problems they run into in their daily lives.  We traveled from one city to another in a car rental with a driver, although that hadn’t been our initial idea. However, I believe it turned to be a good idea because in the hours we spent traveling, we were just my family and a Cuban, the driver, and a certain level of trust and intimacy was gained. This context led us to talk about the country’s political and social situation quite freely.

There is a general feeling of being let down with what the Revolution could have been and what it is has become after all these years of Castro rule. When they refer to Fidel, they call him “our Comandante” but the truth is they’re afraid to openly express what they really think about their country. Yes, the Cuban people take everything to heart, they love their land but we also heard phrases such as “I don’t want to throw away my life or my youth always being controlled” referring to the strict control of freedoms and the expression of ideas here on this island.

Photo: Cecilia E Pericich

And at the end of the day, there are a lot of things where the Cuban Revolution made a lot of great achievements. I discovered that there weren’t any illiterate people in Cuba; everybody is obliged to study until they are 16 years old. They are a people with a good level of culture generally-speaking, and it’s a pleasure to talk to them about everyday issues, about life on the whole.  Their sanitary system is very well-organized, but of course, there are shortages of every kind or at least obvious shortages going the State institution route.

The black market, however, is another thing altogether and you can find everything paying a similar price to what you would pay in the first world, then you really can find everything. A Cuban driver who drove us once said something that summarizes this perfectly “there isn’t anything in Cuba but there is everything.”

I had an amazing trip, in an extremely beautiful land with wonderful people.  I hope that there will be political changes in the future which will allow the Cuban people to develop themselves to their full potential as a people and to offer the world all of the good things they have as a country.
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*Marta Lopez Penoucos wanted to share her experiences in Cuba with the readers of Havana Times.

 


What's your opinion?

  • Longing for Cuba

    Thank you for a very nice article. I am a frequent visitor and the Cuban people and culture are greatest asset the country has. That is the reason I keep returning.

  • Moses Patterson

    Thanks Marta. I believe that what you have shared reflects the honest evaluation of Cuba after 13 days.

  • Nick

    I don’t think it at all pretentious to go to a country and try to get an understanding. Even if you are only there for 13 days.
    It beats spending a whole 13 days lying on some beach or other.
    If everyone went to their holiday destinations with a remit to try and understand the country they have the privelidge to be visiting, then surely the human race would be better off?
    From the article I can see that you did indeed glean a good understanding of the uniqu place that is Cuba for your 13 days there.
    Well done. HIciste bien Marta.

  • N.J. Marti

    The failure of socialism model and lack sufficient reforms has lead to rise of a shadow economy. There is a lot more capitalism in Cuba than government wants to ocknowledges. Ultimately if will be better to legalize and regulate then let it operate outside legal framework.

  • bjmack

    Good article Marta, nice reflection and well balanced.

  • dani

    This article is a bit bland and cliched. For example, how can you tell that “the truth is they’re afraid to openly express what they really think about their country”. Maybe what they express is exactly what they think. From my experience Cubans often express their views in public including strong criticism of the government. I also see the same in emails sent to me. I could give many examples. Some people are reticent to express an opinion (including in private), but then some people are forthright and some aren’t and that is true in any country.

  • Griffin

    ” I hope that there will be political changes in the future which will allow the Cuban people to develop themselves to their full potential as a people and to offer the world all of the good things they have as a country.”

    Amen!

  • Gerard Matthews

    We have visited Cuba several times for a vacation spending fourteen days each visit. My experience of Cuba and the Cuban people is rather mixed. As a tourist to the Island of Cuba you are treated very favourably, however as a tourist I am led to believe that life is not so rosy for the people of Cuba, where the government keep a very tight reign on peoples movement, the ordinary worker is so very poorly paid , ordinary everyday supplies are very limited, things that we take for granted here in England cannot be had. The people are very hard working, and you only get to know what real life for them is like when you can talk with them away from prying eyes and ears. However all Cuban people are not hard working, pretty much the same as some people here in England, who would rather blame anyone else for their life rather than themselves. Will life improve now that Mr Castro has passed away, is difficult to say for sure. I certainly would like life to be slightly easier for the Cuban people in future.