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HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Travel

Individual journey around Cuba

Posted November 25, 2005 by publisher in Cuba Travel.
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From former Cubanonet.com website

“Ask anyone who has gone to Cuba why they keep going back so many times and they’ll all tell you the same thing….its the people. They never leave you”    “Although I first went to Cuba with misgivings about how they would react to me being an American, I found that we are the nationality most beloved to them. And although it seemed at first that we are as mysterious to them as they are to us, I found them anxious to smile and offer their good nature to a many times lost tourist. Despite a 40 year embargo and political standoff that has cut our societies off to one another, many Cubanos are tied to the US through family members living here.

In many ways, Americans who are fortunate enough to go there legally, are the bond that ties them together. Time after time I was greeted with a strong hug by strangers only after they learned that I was an American and then they proceeded to invite me into their homes for coffee or a sweet. I spent many an afternoon sharing stories and information and playing dominoes with young and old alike. And, unlike many other poor, Caribbean countries (the average monthly income in Cuba is $10), I was never pestered for money or in any other way made to feel that their hospitality was anything other than genuine.

One of my fondest memories was riding my bicycle in Cienfuegos past a makeshift baseball diamond on the outskirts of the city. A group of boys from ages 7 to 17 were having a baseball game (Cuba’s national pastime also) when I stopped to take some pictures with my new digital camera. They were enthralled by being able to see their own images seconds after posing, but more than that, they were courteous enough to ask me if I’d like to play with them. Never ducking a challenge, I was offered their prize possession, a real US made, solid ash, Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

It was only after the pomp and circumstance of the event that I realized the rest of them were using carved sugar canes for a bat. I was honored almost to tears. Their spirit of true affection for each other and me surfaced as I was about to leave. Encircling my bicycle and myself to wish me farewell, each one wanting to shake my hand, I reached into my bag for the last few sticks of Juicy Fruit that I had on me. I handed my last three sticks to the oldest who was the closest to me at the time, thinking he would pocket this prize (gum is very scarce in Cuba) and savor it over the next few hours.

I was ashamed of myself when he took the pieces, counted heads to make sure he knew exactly how many kids were there, and proceeded to carefully break them up into equal parts….a piece for everyone. Patiently, each boy waited his turn and thanked me with a big Cuban smile. I was ashamed of myself because the thought of sharing at this level had never even entered my mind.

The richness of their land is surpassed only by their giving, free spirits and that perennial Cuban smile. Christopher Columbus was right about Cuba being the Garden of Eden when he discovered its natural resources, but fell short of discovering what I found to be its greatest treasure: its people. I hope that this site will help you make your own discoveries.”

Member Comments

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On November 25, 2005, Steven Mansour wrote:

As with most others like you who have ventured across Cuba, I completely agree that the Cuban identity is unique throughout the world.

While in Cuba, I’ve never thought twice about asking for directions, inquiring about a building or an historic site, or just introducing myself to chat.

The unique combination of culture, music, social situations and other idiosyncrasies make for a type of man and woman that exists nowhere else in the world.

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On November 26, 2005, I-taoist wrote:

No one with a heart can visit Cuba without being touched deeply by their genuine sincerity, warmth and friendship.  For this they are internationally famous.  In many ways they have avoided the more corrupting influences in modern culture largely influenced by excessive consumerism, the “me” society, and the perniciously corrupting moral degredation of modern television with its “over the top” hype, tone and hidden agendas. 

Cubanos show the true attractiveness of a certain healthy innocence.  Let’ hope they can keep it in the days ahead.