Not everyone visiting Cuba arrives with castroid tinted glasses.
In Cuba, time did not stand still — it went backward
Recently, I took a cruise from Miami to Cuba — the forgotten Caribbean paradise. At first, I was looking forward to seeing the beauty of the island’s first city. However, when my ship pulled into Havana’s bay, I quickly found myself appalled, deep within my soul.
The waterfront was almost empty. The only thing in sight was a tourists vessel nearby. The harbor surroundings were destroyed, with broken cement and cracks everywhere. Buildings were abandoned like sightless phantom structures, disintegrating and putrid.
The seawater was anything but seawater. Instead, it was a mix of discarded fuels and garbage. It was salt water polluted by thick petroleum films where no fish dare enter. Pelicans and other birds that normally wade and swim in brine were nowhere to be seen. It looked as if they knew Havana bay was contaminated to such degree, that it would be simply foolish to dig around.
The atmosphere was dense. The air possessed an unpleasant odor. It was unfit to the point that it might not be suitable for people to breath, particularly if one is suffering from a pulmonary ailment.
By midday I went into the city. Instantly, I spotted old and deteriorated buildings; blemished with scars on the walls. There was no sign of recent maintenance — everything was neglected. Structures were abandoned and looked as if they could fall down at any minute; perhaps suitable for rats, roaches, bugs and scorpions — but not for humans.
Edifices where people still dwelling, the balconies are use as dryers hanging clothes and filthy bedding, not moving at all. It seems that even the wind is reluctant to move around such a decrepit zone.
As I walked through, a sad realization began to sink in: Havana was a dead city where its citizens have been forced to live or die, not knowing the difference between one or the other.
I am quite familiar with Cubans living in my state. They are optimistic, cheerful, and good-hearted. They are full of grace with a desire to prosper. But, what I saw in Havana broke my heart — beggars fighting among themselves for a penny. Almost no one smiled at me. The few who did it, displayed something much deeper than content — they were showing sorrow, despair, hopelessness. Their eyes were empty and their spirits dead.
The system has robbed Cubans of their souls. And, most likely, they are unaware that this has been the case. When people become the pawns of a given agenda and are poorly informed of any other possibilities, they believe that they have everything — even when they don’t.
This is the product of communism. Everything belongs to the state — no wonder there are almost no shops, stores or restaurants. Instead, only a few disintegrating spaces here and there.
A friend of mine whispered to me that Havana is the city where time stood still. Well, that is not quite true. It has gone backward, perhaps 50 years before the end of the revolution.
Thirty hours later, I found myself sailing back to Miami with one question in my mind: What is the rationality of a revolution if you are going to be worse off than before?
J.A.S. Viera is an author of multiple books on statistics. Viera previously worked as a professor of statistics, population, sociology and psychology at the University of Puerto Rico for 30 years.