I’m not sure when my first interest in Cuba peaked, but for some years now it has been high on my travel bucket list. As a lover of cultures I was very interested in learning about the Cuban people, their culture, and their country. Growing up learning about their relationship (or lack there of) with the United states left me with all these skewed perceptions about what this country had to offer. When my plane touched down on Cuban soil I was in awe. I couldn’t believe that I was really here.
Cuba is a country filled with beauty. The landscapes, the people, and the food; everything about it was magic. I thanked God every night for allowing me to be there and to create these memories. Initially I was concerned with how Cubans felt about Americans coming to their country. In hindsight it was silly of me to worry. We were met with nothing but love and warm welcomes.
I like to think that I’m a pretty aware, open minded, and educated person. Despite that, Cuba allowed me to come face to face with my own ignorance. When we booked our airbnb I was shocked at how nice it was. I didn’t know places like that existed in Cuba. Check out our beautiful apartment:
Click here to see this apartment on airbnb.
Thinking of them as disenfranchised and oppressed, I felt bad for the Cuban people. I assumed hotels and resorts were non-existent and that the idea of tourism was a new concept for them. How American of me to think that no contact with us also meant no contact wit the rest of the world. Many (locals and tourists) expressed their surprise that our government let us come to Cuba. One woman told me that her family visits Cuba often, this was their fifth visit. She was Canadian.
The four days I spent in Cuba reminded me why traveling and exploring new countries and cultures is so important. I learned so much in my short time there and it really opened up my mind. As I interacted with the Cuban people I became very interested in learning more about communism and Cuban politics. Everything has its pros and cons (including democracy) but these people seemed so happy and prideful in their country. The anniversary of their revolution was the day before we arrived. Pictures of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara were everywhere. You could feel the pride in the air, so much so that I felt prideful for them. In a way I envy them. America may be full of opportunities and certain freedoms but what we lack is a certain kind of love and pride for our country.
While in Cuba I felt a strange sense of freedom. Like I wasn’t being judged and I could wake up everyday and just be. I was surprised to learn how accepting and prideful Cubans are of their African heritage. They are taught in school and are encouraged to embrace their African roots, with many of their customs and traditions tracing back to the motherland. Other things I loved about Cuba were the big beautiful houses, their love for vintage cars, and the food.
Growing up in a country where free speech is a thing, I forget that not all people in this world have that liberty. One day, we visited a tobacco farm and learned how Cuban cigars were rolled. The guy explained to us that the government takes 90% of what they produce and they’re only left with 10%. They’re also not allowed to compete (in terms of pricing) with the government. That was a little startling to hear. When asked how he felt about that split, you could see the discomfort in his face. He replied, “lets not talk about it”, and proceeded to go over the rest of the process. As much as I loved being in Cuba, that incident reminded me that although I was on vacation I was still in a communist country, and people here don’t have the same freedoms that I have.
Check out “Cuba: 16 travel trips” to get you prepared and ready for all Cuba has to offer. Here’s a quick video re-cap (excuse my vertical snapchat videos) and some photos of our trip: