How Times are Changing in Cuba
Time definitely has a funny way of moving both fast and slow on the island of Cuba- or so I found when I lived there for three months. Maybe it was because everything took so long to do, whether it was connecting to the internet at one of the outdoor wifi spots, or booking travel from one of the few ticketing facilities in Havana. Then there’s the anchronistic appearance of classic American cars on trundling down newly paved roads or the jiniteros (street hustlers) running around selling old school CDs with illegally downloaded reality tv shows and music from around the world to the locals. Ultimately it feels like time just disappears before you know it- which is why you if you’re thinking about going to this precious place where complicated politics rule and life feels just a bit surreal, you should go now. Cuba is changing very quickly, the Castro era has already ended, and new changes are around the corner. See this beautiful place now before it changes into something else completely and you will never get the chance to experience it as it stands now.
The unique challenges and experiences of place that has one foot in the past and one in the present sometimes drove me mad in Cuba, but those experiences are going to stay with me forever. The country just got under my skin and I miss it all the time. The Cuban people are amongst the proudest and most resilient lot I know- they remind me a lot of Indians! It is just such a gorgeous place- inside and out.
The island is a living testament to how people can organise to bring about change, and how people can adjust and adapt to things when they believe in something. This may just be according to my own personal observations, but it isn’t an easy existence there. But then again the Cuban state does provide brilliant free education and health care for its citizens. There are ration cards for people to eat- basic staples, despite how paltry they may be.
There are many testing sides to the structure of government too. Sitting on my Old Havana apartment’s balcony, reading Che and Fidel’s speeches, I could feel how committed these individuals were to an idea- but looking up from my books at the city around me I realised that their belief in certain ideas didn’t necessarily translate to real life. Cubans are dynamic and intelligent people however, and they have made do. Certainly an economic embargo by the world’s most powerful country hasn’t helped matters, and the fact that they have stayed true to their system through thick and thin is a evidence of their committed character.
I can’t say any one thing about Cuba. It would be wrong to classify it under just one label (just like any place I suppose). It’s too complex, too beguiling, too frustrating… All I know is I really miss it there- the beautiful sites, the sense of wonder, the wonderful people and the feeling that I was going back in time (I don’t mean to romanticise the place, when you walk down a cobble stone alley ways into a an impressive Spanish style plaza with bright but crumbling old buildings- you literally do feel like you’ve gone back in time)! I don’t miss all the street harassment or the constant calls of “Linda! Marry me!” But I must admit I never felt unsafe for a moment there despite all that.
I hope to go back there one day in the future. I have a feeling despite all the changes coming up in the future, Cuba will always stay true to itself. Viva la revolution!