Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cuba via iPhone | Two

Sometimes I find it hard to put some things into words. Cuba was one of those experiences where there is so much to tell and so much I want others to understand about it. It is hard for me to describe it or find a way to give it justice. 
Yesterday, Bob Dailey, one of my travel companions, sent this reflection on his time in Cuba. 
This is perfect. Exactly what I would like to say in such beautiful words. Bob is kindly allowing me to share this with you all.

So I'm on UA 718 from Mexico City to SFO, actually returning from "Planet Cuba".  Why Planet Cuba?  Because it's like no other place on Planet Earth.  It spins in its own space, in an orbit shared by nothing else, in a locus where the sun shines continuously on continuous darkness.
   Where nothing makes sense.  Where the clocks suddenly stopped 50+ years ago.  A land of incredible agricultural richness lying fallow, rich seas unfished and rationing of all basic foodstuffs of which 70% are imported.  Of a people at once riotously exuberant and despairing of all hope for a future. People talk animatedly, smile, dance, touch, couple, laugh....and languish.  Music is heard everywhere and of every imaginable beat and background- all of it live. Scaffolded colonial buildings await renovations that never come to pass.  Aging leaders in fatigues exhort with revolutionary slogans on crude billboards, proclaiming victory over imaginary enemies.  There is adherence to a system of governance that died forever in 1990, a system consigning its people to perpetual poverty, corruption and tyranny; and that yet provides universal medical care, the same life expectancy as the USA, 99% literacy, free education, racial equality, and all basic services. 
   Nothing makes sense.  Nothing fits. Nothing functions properly. No one appears to work.  No one is paid a living wage.  2 different currencies exist side by side- one for Cubans, the other for tourists.  The dollar doesn't exist- except in mattresses.  Barter, scavenging, black markets, non-money economics, corruption, chicanery, charity from the Venezuelan government and USA relatives, and survival instinct comprise the economy.  State stores sell one style of shoe, one style of pants.  Government policy is magical.  Grand plans marshaling all citizens change overnight, leaving no traces.  Sugar cane is the king one day, truck gardens the next.  Consistency is a dirty word. 
   Myths, legends, lies, Santeria, tales, suppositions, imaginings, factoids, mysteries are woven into a crazy quilt of a reality which confounds, confuses, and conflicts with and yet confirms itself.  It is a place of madness and magic.  It eludes all logic or explanation.  You grasp it and as quickly it slips away. 
     One day, the switch will be thrown and the full force of capitalism will be felt.  It may well be gradual, or as in the case of Vietnam, come suddenly.  But Cuba will be flooded with investment and capital, the vast energy of its people will be released, and the Cuba that exists today will be no longer a separate and distinct planet, but rather will spin in the relentless gravity of capital and modernity.  Much will be gained and much lost.


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