I came across this article in Q Costa Rica this morning and expected to read about how wonderful apartheid Cuba is for tourists. Like many articles on the topic of vacationing in Cuba, I assumed this piece would gush about how unspoiled and quaint Havana is with its crumbling buildings, 1950s era American cars, and how well behaved the enslaved natives are and how they all love to play music and dance for the tourists.
For the first part of the article, my suspicions were confirmed:
Things You Should or Want Know About Cuba
TODAY CUBA / Cuba is the Caribbean island nation under communist rule. It has sugar-white beaches and is dotted with tobacco fields, which play a part in the production of the country’s legendary cigars. The capital, Havana (La Habana), is lined with pastel houses, 1950s era cars and Spanish-colonial architecture in the 16th-century core, Old Havana (Habana Vieja).
Culturally, Cuba is considered part of Latin America. It is a multiethnic country whose people, culture and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and a close relationship with the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
Salsa music plays in the dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana.
But then, they share a list of bullet points on Cuba that put the island in a realistic perspective:
- Cuba is the largest island in the area with 11 million inhabitants.
- Cuba has been living under a communist dictatorship for 58 years
- Cuba went from the third developed country of the Americas (beating countries like Spain, France, Belgium in indicators) to a third world country with a destroyed economy and agriculture.
- Cuba is a “food deficient country” that has to import 80% of the food it consumes and that lives with rationing for over 50 years.
- Cuba has an “apartheid” medical and tourist system (tourist part now relaxed) with separate facilities for tourist (and the elite) and the Cuban people.
- Cuba has a “two currency” system with one the CUP for the Cuban people’s daily transactions which is “non convertible” (can’t be exchanged for other currencies) and the CUC (convertible). 1 CUC is worth 25 CUP at current exchange rates.
- Average monthly pensions is Cuba are (in US dollar) $10 – $12 and average salary is about $25.
- Rationed goods are cheap but last only 10 days to feed people and lots of other goods have to be bought at high prices (relative compared to income) with CUP or at exorbitant prices in CUC. This results in widespread food problems.
- 62% of Cubans depend on remittances (money sent from abroad) to make ends meet.
- Education and health in Cuba, once praised, have declined now facing crumbling infrastructure, teacher shortages and a lack of medical personnel and equipment in the Cuban system.
It is hard to tell if Q Costa Rica was attempting to give their readers a realistic assessment of vacationing in apartheid Cuba or they were just being lazy and copied and pasted a list of bullet points they found on the internet.
Either way, a true assessment of apartheid Cuba is out there on the internet and once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever.