In Cuba, the only time to keep is with the music.
I'm not sure I could choose a favorite moment - learning to play the local instruments in a craftsman's shop, watching the kids play marbles in the street, watching Angel play futbol with a local kid, dipping hand-rolled organic cigars in honey, singing along to "Guantanamera" with Nuevo Son at NAO.....
We saw the famous sites, visited the theatre, sipped mojitos. And we lingered.
Angel made sure these kids didn't lose their marbles, returning the blue glass marble that rolled down the street after us. A lack of Internet was no lack of connection in Cuba. Couples and friends made eye contact and shared conversations over meals. Kids played outside. And "Don't talk to strangers," would be the worst travel advice ever. Though depending on the topic of conversation, you may be interrupted.
I am so glad we did not rent a car. All three or four rental agencies are government-owned. Not only is it cheaper to use a colectivo - a private, shared taxi - than to rent, but you are helping an individual. Our driver between Viñales and Cayó Jutía, we will call him Sol - for although the day lacked much sun, he provided some light on socioeconomics - professionally navigated the potholes by mostly driving through the dirt on the side of the road. The 65kn journey lasted two hours, almost as long as the 180km ride from Havana to Viñales.
Sol, who many years ago paid $12,000 for his "classic" car, makes the trip daily. At least on our day, he gained a friend from Angel, who wiped the humidity fro the windshield with some folded (clean) toilet paper as they chatted in Spanish amidst the Germans, British, and American. I listened.
The ride home in the rain took no longer than the ride to the beach, because if the government does not use the roads, they will not be repaired, forcing the cars to crawl at 30kpm or 18mph. Thankfully our car, the color turquoise that you only see on a kiddy rollercoaster or the music express at the amusement park today, made it the whole way, as we passed three broken cars throughout our round trip.
We dipped our cigars in honey, the way Che would to cope with his asthma.
I chose to ride. After which, I had no choice but to follow. And I wouldn't have had it any other way. Angel's Coco Loco would not allow my Mojito to pass, so we just enjoyed the ride, single file, through the Viñales Valley.
The difference in the houses was the paint. The differences in the homes were the people. Gracias to the four families who shared their homes with us.
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain." We hope this post tells a small piece of the stories that still cost too much for some people to tell themselves.
If not already apparent, the scaffolding on the dome of the Capitolio, seen in the distance, demonstrates the disparity between rhetoric, there, and reality, here, at street level.
It is not all black and white. Do we criticize communism because people are not rewarded for their labor or because they are not incentivized monetarily? We still criticize capitalism: when the most successful businesses make charitable donations of both time and money, we accuse them of doing so for a tax break. But there is no price on the smile and the experience of a child that otherwise would not have been a possibility without the giving of another. So perhaps the best we can do is enjoy our moments and make a memory a little more special for someone else. One day, the trade winds may carry more than air from the Cuban coasts. But with any system, it is best to hope for more choices for individuals and less judgment of each other, for freedom of movement is of little value when the mind is enslaved to judgment. Show interest. Ask to understand, rather than to judge.
Contact us to plan a trip to Cuba that benefits the locals. We will share our contacts for you to have an authentic experience where your fees stand a better chance of remaining in the hands of the men and women serving you rather than funneling into a government business.
Christine & Angel
Aisle or window
He likes the window; she likes the aisle. Match made at FL350. Here are some other travel preferences. Full disclaimer: These are affiliate links, meaning the authors are rewarded for referrals (usually in the form of a credit to use more of the product/service themselves). Pinky promise: Recommendations are simply the best.
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Airbnb is the preferred accomodation for Christine & Angel when they want to connect with locals, want to keep their entire group under one roof with the privacy of separate bedrooms, or when staying in a place known for expensive hotels. Click here or on the photo below to save on your first stay.
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