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Don’t let the humidity put you off. Cuba is one of the most exotic, interesting and photogenic places on the planet!
A few years ago, my motivation for travel changed from simply wanting to learn, eat and relax, to exploring places that are threatened by some sort of change: environmental, social, political… I wanted to see Antarctica before it melts away; to experience indigenous life in Bolivia before big name brands replace the iconic top hats. But most of all, I wanted to go to Cuba before globalisation.
It was revolutionary, in every sense.
Cuba is a country still deeply entrenched in Communism, a fact that has protected its people from the sort of poverty that you’d expect from a nation that’s so politically and economically isolated from the rest of the world. Cubans have a high standard of free medicine and education; they have shelter and food. The adult literacy rate is among the highest in the world at 99.8% and there are more doctors per capita than any other country in the world. It came across to me very unique type of “Caribbean Communism” where, perhaps due to the warm climate and proliferation of music and in daily life, Cubans have a happy disposition. The modern architecture is decidedly Communist, all square blocks and homogenous, but it’s colourful. You’ll find Buena Vista Social Club type bands of young and old musicians creating upbeat tunes on virtually street corner. And then there’s the rum and cigars. But after spending some time in Cuba, it becomes apparent that despite a sense of equity and joy amongst people, they are denied of one of the most important human rights: freedom.
In Cuba, you won’t find any conventional advertising, magazines, international newspapers or fast food stores, incredible considering it’s 50km proximity by sea to Miami! While for me it was very refreshing to escape from the Americanised and globalised version of reality that most of us are exposed to, for Cubans it’s a denial of basic access to information and communication. For example, mobile phones were banned until 2008! Due to the trade embargo with America, there’s also there’s limited variety of food as their only trade partner is Venezuela. Incredibly, people still line up for rations of basic items like soap, pencils, toothpaste.
I’m not sure how long Cuba will stay like this but in this day and age it’s so rare to be in a country so sheltered from globalisation, preserved in the 1950s.
Cuba is the most interesting place I’ve been to thus far.
MY TOP 5 IN CUBA:
Vinales: Explore tobacco fields and sugar cane plantations on horseback.
Havana: From the vintage cars, bars and cinemas to hand-rolled cigars in old-school factories, there is a National Geographic photograph every where you look.
Santa Clara: Immerse yourself in the revolutionary history of Che Guevara.
Trinidad: Quintessential Cuba with cobblestone streets, colourful houses and local markets.
Cayo Levisa: Sip a pina colada on the white sands and turquoise seas of this beautiful island.