What is Cuba like? It’s complicated
By Daniel Dauplaise Published 5:22 pm, Sunday, January 1, 2017
STAMFORD — The first question that I get from everyone when I tell them
I went to Cuba is always a broad one — “How was it?”
It’s asked in a way that indicates general curiosity. After all, it’s a
place where most Americans haven’t been, and the vast majority don’t
even know someone who has gone there.
The answer that I have given repeatedly is: “It’s complicated.” As a
nostalgic trip to understand my family’s roots it has been incomparably
wonderful. I’m 100 percent glad I did it. But as a pure tourist
destination it has some pretty serious challenges.
Neither American ATM cards nor American credit cards are usable anywhere
in Cuba, effectively meaning that you must travel to the island with the
amount of cash you expect to use. Changing money requires waiting in a
line. Taxicabs are disproportionally expensive. A 10 minute cab ride
will be the same cost as dinner — around $10 to $15 — and is the only
available method of transportation.
The tourism infrastructure is not well developed. Apart from a few
blocks in the Old City of Havana and the large tourist hotels, there is
little for the average tourist. More adventurous, off-the-beaten-track
visitors may find pockets of interest, but, by and large, it is closed
off. The few times we ventured into bars and restaurants that operated
on “national money” as opposed to “tourist pesos,” I encountered
difficult conditions, skittish people at best, and certainly no English.
The Cuban soul remains, though. In hushed conversations with people,
they quietly expressed their displeasure at the government, and saw the
direct American flights as the first step in a long process to improve
relations and, hopefully, the economy of the country. When people found
out that I was American, their reaction was universally positive,
inquisitive and friendly.
Because of the way the Internet is regulated in Cuba, it was impossible
for me to communicate with the rest of the world at all. That meant no
texts, no calls, and no Instagram for four days. In that way, my
experiences there were completely insulated from everything in the
United States. In some ways, it felt like a four-day dream. None of what
happened in Cuba blended into my life in the United States.
That final feeling of stepping off the plane in Atlanta, and being
barraged with texts, e-mails, and social media must have been in some
ways like the experience of exiles leaving the island. My grandfather
left a repressive government and worked at Machlett Laboratories in
Stamford for 35 years. My uncle left and became a Stamford police
officer. With the changes brought this year, hopefully more Americans
will travel to the island, improving contact and perhaps one day giving
Cubans the economic and political freedom that they deserve.
Source: What is Cuba like? It’s complicated – StamfordAdvocate –