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Posted September 22, 2012 by publisher in Cuban Culture

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Five stars or no stars, life is a beach

By Desmond Boylan | Reuters

The variety of options and price range for vacationing in Cuba, for either Cubans or foreigners, is vast. Let’s take the average Cuban family, with an income of roughly $20 (500 pesos) per month from the husband and around $10 from the wife. Summer comes and they need a break with their two children.

For the equivalent of $5 (120 pesos), this family can have a short, three-day break in a popular campismo, or rural cabin for four people in a natural park or near the sea, with round trip transportation included. Conditions are spartan and unsophisticated, but clean and agreeable. Obviously the Cuban state is not making a profit on this and subsidizes the cost to make it possible for average people to enjoy a holiday. Average still means the vast majority of Cubans, as in this communist economy there are still few incomes above or below the mean.


Cuba’s Post-Castro Future

By Don Ediger | Consortium News

With Fidel Castro now 86 and his brother Raul at 81, big changes appear inevitable in Cuba over the next few years. Cuban-Americans are ramping up investment plans, assuming the U.S. government will finally lift the embargo. But the future may not be all that’s expected.

For more than 50 years, Cuban-Americans have been looking for ways to end the Castro regime. Today their plans are being re-shaped in ways that would have been all but unthinkable only a few years ago – and these plans will be affected by the outcome of U.S. presidential elections.

Most Cuban-Americans now believe that a transition to democracy may require a period of many years. In the meantime, a growing number of them are exploring ways to profit from a country that has been off limits for most American companies.

The key to this new strategy is an option that until recently wasn’t even open to discussion – ending the U.S. embargo. That’s more likely to happen, Cuba experts say, if Barack Obama is reelected, because Democrats are traditionally more open to options regarding the embargo. There’s also growing doubt about whether outlawing Cuban imports actually hurts the regime.

“Personally, I think that the embargo is a completely failed policy,” says Miami attorney Antonio Zamora, referring to the 50-year-old law that was imposed after the Castro regime expropriated private property. In all those years, Zamora points out, only a few property owners have ever been compensated.


Where Is Cuba Going?


On the plane, something odd but also vaguely magical-seeming happened: namely, nobody knew what time it was. Right before we landed, the flight attendant made an announcement, in English and Spanish, that although daylight saving time recently went into effect in the States, the island didn’t observe that custom. As a result, we had caught up — our time had passed into sync with Cuban time. You will not need to change your watches. Then, moments later, she came on again and apologized. She had been wrong, she said. The time in Cuba was different. She didn’t specify how many hours ahead. At that point, people around us looked at one another. How could the airline not know what time it is where we’re going? Another flight attendant, hurrying down the aisle, said loudly, “I just talked to some actual Cubans, in the back, and they say it’ll be the same time.” That settled it: we would be landing in ignorance. We knew our phones weren’t going to work because they were tied to a U.S. company that didn’t operate on the island.


How We Got Those Cuba Pictures


Andrew Moore’s photographs of Cuba are the perfect visual companion to this week’s cover story by John Jeremiah Sullivan, who takes the pulse of the country today and considers what it might be like tomorrow. We wish we could take credit for generating the pictures, but in fact we stumbled upon them. Originally, we hoped to send a photographer to Cuba and applied for a journalist visa. But in early August, following a months-long wait, the Cuban government turned us down: our request was “too general.” We had asked permission to take portraits of Cubans from all walks of life. (Sullivan was able to visit the country with his wife, who is Cuban-American.)

After an unsuccessful search for photographers who were headed to Cuba on their own, or who had been there not too long ago, we discovered that Moore had a book coming out in October called . . . ”Cuba.” It turned out that Moore, a regular contributor — he shot New Orleans for a March issue of the magazine — had been traveling to the country since 1998 and been there as recently as January. When we saw his unpublished images, we could not believe our good fortune. The picture of the Bacunayagua Bridge, for example, seemed to have been shot expressly to be the cover it would become.

In the print edition of the magazine, we featured mostly landscapes and city scenes, but you can see some of Moore’s portraits in a slideshow here. What follows is a condensed version of a conversation we had recently about his Cuban experiences.


——————————Havana Journal Comments——————————

Be sure to buy the New York Times Sunday edition this Sunday September 23 to get the hard copy of the Cuba article mentioned above.

The Colors of Cuba

Photojournalist Eric Kruszewski took a nine day expedition to Cuba after winning a trip from placing Honorable Mention in a National Geographic Expeditions photo contest. In choosing Cuba,  Kruszewski stated that his goal was “to capture imagery that will not only teach others about Cuba’s fundamental activities and lifestyle, but also show the color and vibrancy of life that abounds in the nation.”

Outside of Cienfuegos, a densely cultivated area of Cuba, a young village boy brings home his horse after a day’s work in the fields.

Kruszewski’s Cuba series received a First Place Award in the Special – Travel / Tourism category in the 2012 The International Photography Awards announced Sept. 14, 2012.  He also received Six Honorable Mention Awards in Editorial Categories for other Photo Series.

Citizens still rely on rationing to attain basic daily necessities. Sisters wait in Havana’s local bodega (translation – convenience store) to buy bread and fish. Quantity and selection of goods are based on factors such as age, gender, illness and pregnancy.

The classic American car has become a symbol and staple throughout Cuba. In the back streets of Havana, one who has yet to learn of the country’s history, shows her innocence at play.


Nation of Islam leader asks for talks between U.S. and Cuba

By Reuters

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said on Thursday (September 20) that, during a meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro, he had asked him personally to let Washington know that Cuba was open for talks.

“He [Cuban President Raul Castro] wanted me to let the world know that Cuba is ready to talk with the appropriate authorities in the United States and everything that divides the two countries would be put on the table with no preconditions,” Farrakhan said at a news conference in Havana.

Farrakhan’s comments come hours after the Cuban foreign minister made the country’s annual plea for the U.S. to drop its embargo.


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