Last week's people-to-people educational sojourn toward the Caribbean netted two days in Havana, and confirmed enlightenment to be a marvelous reason for visiting Cuba whereas wallowing in luxury perhaps is not.
Two generations of disparagement, sanctions, and embargos by US-led interests have taken enormous economic toll on the island. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 curtailed soviet subsidies to Cuba further exacerbating the nation's budgetary problems.
Consequently despite burgeoning tourism the magnificent architecture of Havana lies in knavish disrepair while ongoing restoration efforts are less than 10% completed. On the more personal and practical side travelers cannot assume paper products to be available in any given public restroom.
One cab driver pointed out "the focus here is people, not things", and official actions perhaps bear that out. Despite significant odds the Cuban government very successfully supplies free education and health care to all its citizens. Outside U.S. media control, the country is well-known both for its cancer research and for supplying medical teams worldwide to distressed areas, especially in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Unlike their Yankee brethren Cubans have humanitarian goals and are not squandering available revenue by bombing and killing others.
If the true wealth of a nation is its culture and citizenry then perhaps Cuba is very well-to-do. From the 1500's until Castro's 1959 victory the country's historical experiences of occupation, subjugation, and oppression seem to have honed a resilient population coping well with today's western-policy-induced poverty. Despite Cuba's relatively depressed economic state, travelers are not likely to encounter the outward signs of mental illness, alcoholism, or homelessness evident in major U.S. cities.
On lighter notes the legendary Tropicana still produces extravaganzas and the elegant Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where mobster Lucky Luciano's casino once entertained Hollywood royalty, still produces a delightful Parisian Cabaret, a kaleidoscope of whirling costumes amazingly well-choreographed to Cuban beats. Around midnight after the show our party was incidentally chauffeured along both the main promenade and the renowned Malecon where many Cubans were gathered as couples and in small groups apparently to socialize in the cool of the evening.
With delightful entertainment, world-class museums, magnificent architecture, and a welcoming citizenry, Havana can be a great getaway providing opportunity for reflection. After an almost 60 year western tantrum over losing dominance to people-oriented leadership1, official reconciliation seems long overdue.
1here's a 5 year old piece with a bit more information about Cuba and the revolution's aftermath.
Sometimes it seems we're living in a post-truth fantasy-based expedient-narratives era where unprincipled media ruled by unscrupulous CIA-like organizations purvey wild fiction to global masses—and it's not because a duly elected Neanderthal U.S. administration is in control for over 100 days. This has been going-on for quite a while.
Case in point: No matter how effectively American media touts the "good" that U.S. forces do around the world , informed veterans, thinkers, and scholars consistently reveal U.S. military actions to be nothing more than complimentary corporate muscle for well-heeled international business interests.
And lamentably, people suffer enormously everywhere "we" drop "our" bombs. "Our" taxes provide "our" biggest export—which is violence—even to countries neither deserving nor desiring it, like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria for starters.
So what has belligerent American foreign policy accomplished? Several million untimely deaths aside, the most obvious recent consequences are the greatest European refugee crisis the world has ever known as well as an exponential rise in international terrorism.
Yet constitutional impediments to war are nullified and so without congressional approval POTUS Trump could take us into what one political cartoonist calls the "bad hairdo war" with Kim Jong Un. Stranger things have happened—perhaps few more foolish.
In screwball comedy timing is everything.