Cuba: An Overview


“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Confucius

CubaFor Americans, Cuba is not the easiest place to visit because of the embargo imposed by the government.  The only way to go legally is with a specific agency that has been licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to offer people to people excursions.  The law requires itineraries to be very specific, and there is little flexibility in the schedule.  In other words, it is almost impossible to wander on your own.

CubaThough Cuba is only 90 miles from Miami, it appears to be light years away.

CubaAs soon as you step outside the terminal, you are reminded of the 1959 revolution that gave Fidel Castro the presidency and drove many Cubans from their native soil.

CubaOne of the first sites as you approach Havana is Revolution Plaza commemorating Fidel’s rise to power.

CubaHere, too, you get your first glimpse of Che Guevara who was a major player in the revolution and is regarded as a hero by Cubans.  The young Che was quite handsome, and our guide described him as a “chick magnet”!

CubaHis remains, along with those of his fellow revolutionaries, are kept at the Che Guevara Museum and Mausoleum.  I found it surprising that Che’s image is everywhere, but of Fidel there is not a trace.  Interestingly, that will be the case until after his death.

CubaCubaCubaCubaIn many parts of Cuba are stunning examples of colonial architecture.  What is so sad is that many of the buildings are crumbling after years of no maintenance.  Keep in mind Cuba is socialist, there is no real tax system or revenue source which means no one, not the people nor the government, has much in the way of funds for improvements.  With tourism becoming big business, however, some restoration effort is being made in the more scenic areas.

Havana University
Havana University

I was  surprised to learn that Cuba is a highly educated country.  Most Cubans have earned a university degree at no cost with the payback being 3 years of social or military service.    While this may sound very progressive, the flip side is that no matter the level of education, salaries are minimal at best.  A doctor, for example, makes less than $50/month.

CubaWith salaries for professionals being so low, some people become quite enterprising.  These women dressed in colorful native garb, for example, can make more money having their picture taken with tourists than working  as a teacher or a dentist or an engineer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThough life in Cuba has improved somewhat in the last 10 years, it is still experiencing  hard times referred to as the special period which began in the early 1990’s when Russia pulled its support.   Not only is money an issue but food shortages continue to be a real problem.  In a country where it appears that much could be grown, 76% of the food is imported and diet consists mainly of rice and beans purchased with ration coupons. 

CubaSome efforts are being made to address this issue as farmers are leasing land from the government to grow fruits and vegetables for their own consumption and local sale.   Hopefully, this kind of endeavor will continue to find government support as access to locally grown food would be a first step toward improving Cuban life.

There is much to be said about the social issues in Cuba, but I’ll leave that and sort through my travel experience to share with you another day.  I hope you will come along to experience the adventure.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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33 thoughts on “Cuba: An Overview

  1. Welcome home! Your trips are always interesting and I am looking forward to our guided tour.

  2. What a great post! I have been dying to go to Cuba for the past few years! Thanks for sharing and making me want to go even more!

    1. Hopefully, Cuba will become more accessible for Americans and even more of it can be enjoyed.

  3. I was so very anxious to hear about your trip to Cuba…having lived in South Florida most of my life, I have many wonderful Cuban/American friends…I heard their parents speak so lovingly about their native Cuba…such a shame that this beautiful place has suffered so much…Looking forward to more of your adventure.

    1. The good news is that the need for change is being recognized in some quarters.

  4. I’m glad you explained the details on how you were able to travel to Cuba. I’ve heard of so many Canadians traveling there with no restrictions but I rarely hear about Americans going and when they go they have to travel from outside of the U.S. Did your flight into Cuba originate from another country? I found your post very interesting and informative.

    1. For Canadians, no problem visiting Cuba. Leaving from the U.S. is a bit more problematic but not impossible. I left from Miami for a quick 50 minute flight.

  5. Enjoyed the reading. Hope Cuba will continue to change and improve. Looking forward to reading more about Cuba.

  6. So glad that you and my cousin are home safe and sound! Your critique of Cuba is so interesting, and compliments what some Australian friends said last year, after they spent a week there. (They were not with a tour group, and were able to hire a driver/guide who drove them around Havana in an old American car, from the 50s. I wonder if they were able to do so because they are NOT from the USA? ) To get to Cuba, they flew from Miami to the Bahamas, then to Havana where they spent a week. They left via Mexico and visited us in Texas before returning to Sydney! Will look forward to more photos and more posts!

    1. Probably travel to Cuba was much easier for your friends than for us who go from the U.S. You will hear more about the trip for sure.

  7. What an informative post! Thanks for sharing so many pictures of Cuba. It’s sad, the state of affairs there. I worked with a woman my age (a long time ago) who had come to the U.S. with her family by boat from Cuba when she was a little girl. They literally had to flee on a moment’s notice and almost didn’t make it. A bonus was my education of Cuban food – black beans with yellow rice and Cuban sandwiches. Yum! Are you planning to post about the food any time soon? Just wondering…. I enjoyed the tour very much! 🙂
    Blessings,
    Kim

    1. I will have a few words to say about the food in a later post. I’m glad you enjoyed the tour. There’s more to come.

  8. I’m in!

    Sent from my iPhone🌴♻

  9. Just $50 a month for a doctor??!?!! Oh, my goodness! I MUST share that with Ramon! He will faint!!!

    It’s so sad that the people of Cuba are subjected to such harshness. They really have had more than their fair share. As you pointed out, it seems like a rich, fertile land where much could be grown and used to feed hungry people as well as export to generate income. I applaud those who come up with enterprising ways to make money. We all have to do what we must to survive…even if it means an M.D. degree merely gathers dust.

    This was a cool post, Linda. Thanks for sharing this overview. I look forward to seeing more on this really interesting country.

    1. You would have a very hard time on a Cuban salary buying all your wonderful things for tables!

  10. Wonderful overview! Thanks so much for sharing your trip, Linda!

    1. Glad to have you along, Kenley.

      1. Also, Linda…. I wanted to catch you up on something important that I posted while you were in Cuba. Please take a moment to read when you can. Thanks!!
        http://greendoorhospitality.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/a-rose-by-any-other-name/

  11. Fascinating Linda, I would be scared to venture to Cuba. What a tragedy that it remains so poor and run down, I look forward to hearing more~
    Jenna

    1. Nothing scary, Jenna. The people are wonderful and every where we went felt very safe.

  12. I guess I never thought Cuba was like this. Interesting post!

  13. I’ve only visited once since departing in 1967 and what I saw was total devastation. Glad your pictures portray something different. Thank you for posting… Can’t wait to see more…

    1. There’s still a long way to go. Are you from Cuba?

  14. So interesting, Linda. I look forward to more posts.

    1. Always glad to have you along, Bonnie.

  15. Linda, You’re a world traveler! If I need a guide or to plan a trip I know who to contact 🙂

  16. I’ve been wondering how your trip went and your experiences of Cuba. I traveled there in 1999, and as a British citizen we were free to book our flights, hotels and travel where we liked – so you have started on a very different journey to mine!

  17. Hi Linda, enjoyed your new blog with gorgeous pictures of Cuba. It has always seemed like another planet to me, and looking at the pics takes me to a world tome left behind.
    Thanks for sharing. Judi Valentine

    1. Cuba is so close yet so far.

  18. It seems you have had another wonderful and interesting adventure. Thanks for photographing it all and sharing it, XXOO Anne

  19. Corallie Murray March 6, 2014 — 8:28 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. Wonderful pictures. I have deplored our country’s harmful Cuban embargos since they were instated. Hopefully the number of people who are now interested in Cuba will help bring about changes in our national policy. Corallie

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