My Recent Trip To Cuba

My recent trip to Cuba at Christmas has given me some ideas for new stories. Far from being a “police state,” as we have been led to believe, the Cubans seem reasonably content with their government, enough to poke fun at it. While spending four days in Cuba doesn’t make me an expert, what I discovered was people leave Cuba not because of government repression but because they want a better standard of living. They can own a house in the city and in the country, but they can’t buy new houses, because no banks have financed new housing projects in Cuba since the embargo. That means people have to live in the homes of their parents or grandparents. Also cars and travel are expensive (yes, Cubans are allowed to travel) and public transportation is spotty. My tour guide lives in the country because she feels that’s a better place to raise a child, but she has to take a succession of taxis to get to work. And it takes her an hour and a half. The vintage cars are mainly owned by taxi companies who cater to tourists.

To improve their standard of living many people make money on the black market. Unless they do it on a large scale, the government looks the other way. This is why I saw many Cubans arriving at the airport with a pile of hats on their heads they planned to sell. They get the same TV shows we get. They like their healthcare system and the fact that college is practically free. It’s also a more liberal place for artists and musicians than it was in the 1970s when the government forbid listening to Beatle’s music.
Especially inspiring on my trip was visiting the Hemingway Museum, the house where Ernest Hemingway lived for a number of years. It’s about fifteen miles outside Havana. According to my tour guide, Mary Hemingway deeded it to the Cuban government if they would keep it intact as a museum. However, as some online articles point out, the Cuban government confiscated it. At any rate, it’s a quiet, idyllic spot in a tropical setting––a great place to write.
Another highlight of the trip was a talk by Marta Nunez, the Minister of Gender Relations. She discussed the problems Cuba faces. She is a sociologist and former Harvard professor, whose family supported the Revolution in the early days. According to Nunez, the fact that men have compulsory military service and women do not has resulted in more women becoming college graduates, but because of that, men lag behind intellectually. That results in more divorces, and one-child families––not from family planning but because the marriages don’t last long. In addition, it is a machismo society. Women raise their sons to be manly––gays are not that tolerated––and to view housework and child rearing as “women’s work.” As I said, Cubans are not reluctant to criticize their country.
This is the view from my hotel:  Havana at sunset. 

And of course, I got to ride in a vintage car. Most of them are owned by taxicab companies because they are very expensive to buy. Because a ride in a vintage car is more expensive than other taxis, the average Cuban can't afford them.

Convertibles are the best to ride in because all cars use leaded gas.

In a pinch, you can always take a ride in a Soviet-made car. Not as fancy but on my last night in Cuba this was the only taxi we could find to get back to the hotel. For $10 it was a deal, but not one I'd like to repeat. The back doors didn't open and the front seats didn't pull down, so we had to crawl over the front seat to get in. And the fumes were horrible.

My take on Cuba is it's an interesting, colorful place to visit. The people are friendly and relatively content. The food, the music and entertainment were fabulous. The plumbing--not so much.  

Vanessa A. Ryan is the author of:
Horror At The Lake, A Vampire Tale mystery trilogy:
Book 1, The Legacy Of Fear -- order now  Book 2, The Trail Of Terror -- order now
Book 3, The Blood Of Redemption -- order now

A Palette For Murder - order now

Follow Vanessa A. Ryan at: