What a colorful, delicious, vibrant, beauty is this tropical island! And so very close to home! Cuba has never been at the top of my travel list. But this is because Cuba has really never been much in my field of consciousness. We never studied it in school (the Bay Of Pigs section was always at the end of the US history books and we never would get that far before the school year ended), and I certainly have never heard or seen ads to travel there. I have learned that this is entirely generational, and those of you my parents' age used to hear of Cuba all the time. It was a thriving, bustling, wild, mafia-visited, glamorous, night-club riddled, luxury vacation, musical, cultural, dance-filled, hot and bothered, gem of the Atlantic. And then it disappeared! I feel sure many Americans who were born after the early 60s have the same experience as I do. I have such compassion now for our Cuban Americans who have fled to seek a better life, as well as for the Cubans who stayed in town for Fidel Castro's experiment. Without getting too political, I can totally see both sides with extreme compassion. If I were to make a prediction, I would say that a change is about to happen within Cuba. It is going to be rocky at first, and then it is going to be better - and soon we can all be friends and vacation together again! And PS, It looks like the Castros will be out of there by 2018.
Every local we met, from hotel staff to servers to taxi drivers to musicians, were all thrilled that we were Americans. They love us! We finally asked why, and they said it was because we were always so friendly and polite, and that we gave very good tips. This was true, since a taxi ride for the entire evening round trip including the driver waiting for us outside during dinner was $20. An interesting thing about Cuba is that there are beautiful magnificent buildings and mansions right next door to completely crumbling buildings and mansions. After the government took ownership of all the property, their plans to maintain the buildings and dwelling spaces didn't pan out in a thorough manner. So if your house falls in on you the government moves you to another location. Weird. But on the plus side, you WILL have somewhere to live. There are virtually no homeless people in Cuba.
The music and arts there were mindblowing! We visited a middle school music conservatory and I was taken back to my childhood when a 12 year old girl performed a classical piano solo for us! The dancing and music all over Cuba was incredible. One night we managed to find an underground show with a few of the artists from the original Buena Vista Social Club. What a wall of sound their 9 piece band delivered!
Look at the pictures below to notice the kind of color that was everywhere, every moment in Cuba. The cars!!! I couldn't get enough! Maybe they're not the most comfortable, but riding around the glamorous streets of Havana in convertibles was perhaps our favorite activity! We laughed and waved the whole time! I have never seen cars like these except in parades where beauty queens or political candidates sit on the back of them and wave. So that's exactly what we did!
Overall, my favorite takeaway was the warmth of the Cubans. Their hearts practically shone through their eyes. Every interaction was a pleasure. They worship their women and honor their elderly, value their arts and love their culture. They're so open and inviting, and seem eager to help the country thrive again. By the end of the trip I was overwhelmed with gratitude for living in a place on Earth where I can make money in absolutely any way I choose, and I was truly excited to get home and exercise this sacred freedom.
May the colors of Cuba inspire you to see the infinite in your limitations, and the art in your everyday.
Love and Viva Cuba!