I love Cuba. My love affair began in 2005 when I read a novel entitled "Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban". Though fictional it included many true facts about the large island nation. The book really peaked my interest and since then I've been hungry for knowledge about Cuba and her history. I've read many articles, stories, and interviews on Cuba's political figures as well as the everyday people who reside there. Cuba has become a part of who I am, es mi corazon. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about that magical place.
Cuba is unlike any other island I've visited. There is such a rich and unique history there. It is not just this trendy place that people can go to get beautiful photos of vintage cars and crumbling architecture. There's a reason for those vintage cars and the poor infrastructure; if you're visiting, you NEED to understand that. Do your research. A good place to start is with Cuba and the Cameraman on Netflix. Understand this place you are visiting, the people, the struggle. Now, the U.S. does not want it's citizens enjoying a true Caribbean vacation here and honestly, you really shouldn't be visiting with that idea in mind anyways.
Si, Cuba is beautiful and trust me, you're going to want to keep your phone in hand to snap the intriguing scenery that you're bound to see. All I'm saying is appreciate it. Take the time and speak to the locals. Practice your Spanish. Most times you'll find that the average Cuban's English is just as bad as your Spanish - yet still communicable! Sit along the malecon and reflect on what the revolution must've meant to the people; the good, the bad and how they've managed to LIVE. I truly respect the Cuban people for having a vibrancy and resiliency like none other. And DANCE!!! Find a salsa or rumba class. Hit up the Tropicana. During hard times, la musica y la salsa were two things that lifted the people's spirit. Dance, smile and laugh and like there's no tomorrow.
Visit the Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor and understand why there may only be one flavor of ice cream. Understand why you need to purchase wifi cards and why Cubans were only recently allowed to own cell phones in 2008. Understand why Cubans are some of the most educated people with the lowest salaries (I'm talking about biochemists and surgeons ya'll). Find out why these same people may find it more beneficial to sell souvenirs to you in Centro Havana too.
On my first visit to the island I stayed at an Airbnb in Nuevo Vedado (a suburb of Havana) and at a resort in Varadero. I wanted to experience ALL of what the country had to offer. On BOTH sides. I'll be heading back to the island this July via Norwegian Sky for an overnight stay in Havana and I plan to indulge in a true salsa dancing experience. I look forward to more learning, more conversations and most importantly, more culture.
Cuando Sali de Cuba (When I Left Cuba) - Celia Cruz
I will never be able to die
My heart I don't have here (with me)
Someone is waiting for me
They're waiting for me to go back there
When I left Cuba
I left behind my life, I left behind my love
When I left Cuba
I left my heart buried in the ground
It beats and continues beating
Because my land gives it life
But the day will come
When my hand will reach it
A sad storm
Is battering me without rest
But the sun of your children
Soon will make the calm reach you