February 18, 2017 · Centro Habana, Cuba.
CUBA: Living on Embargoed Time. 2016 February
I could not shake the thought of it, the embargo; Cuba seems to me a land frozen in time but not in spirit.
It is not imaginary, it is reality that with the revolution and international reaction Cuba was not able to shake the bonds of time. Locked into the world of the 1950’s and regressing by necessity to times gone by. No new construction to speak of, buildings unpainted, cars repaired and re-repaired. Horse drawn carriages, which are a romantic novelty in western cities, a necessity in Cuba along with all sorts of other forms of hybrid transport like bicycle taxis, taxi buses, etc.
Internet is new to Cuba, part of life in the rest of the world, being no older than the gestation period of the creation of a child, 9 months. Like a baby it has limited range, limited to a park square in the major cities and certain hotels. But like a baby it should be up and walking and communicating in no time.
My impression of Cuba is not too much different to my foray to another country in 1979, that was also managed on the basis of a single sociopolitical philosophy, an island that had isolated itself from its neighbors, focused on having an agricultural economy, good education and health care, but experienced no growth and no upgrading of structures; Ireland. (And, shares a bit of its’ land with its’ prior occupier) While Ireland was a great exporter, at this time, of its children, (and sad to say once again, 35 years later), Cuba’s fortunes have been embargoed and its people imprisoned, with no or little option of making much of a life at home or seeking a life elsewhere. Both countries have done much with little, while those with much, have not done so much for them.
That all being said, things are changing and the Cubans are excited but pensive. The Pope has visited twice and Obama is on his way, as he eases the shackles that bind these people to their island. The changes to come are unpredictable. No one knows what will come of them, but all that is certain is that Cuba without embargo will be different than Cuba with embargo. Like always, like for Ireland the changes will be good and bad. The economy will change; buildings will be painted, new ones built. Those who are here with little to do, will have something to do, and those who do not will have options elsewhere. But, like Ireland the changes can run full circle and Cuba could end up being like it was under Batista, or back to like it is now. The journey is just beginning, and that journey may or may not include the main transport of the last 55 years, the 50’s vintage cars. I wish Cuba and the Cubans a smooth drive into the movement of time after the embargo into modern times that retain the life and spirit of the Cuban people and their culture. Like Ireland which has retained its music, dance, literature, humour and soul, may Cuba do likewise.
From what I can see there is much hope, the country and its’ people are beautiful and natural. There is much land under cultivated, and people underutilized (I hope they will be utilized in a healthy and humane way for them and the world, as modernization occurs). There is also land for rest and relaxation, beaches, river, lakes, mountains and more.
There is not telling what will happen when the shackles of embargo are lifted, only time will tell.