April 24, 2013 by lucychlin
For a very long time now, I have wanted to visit Cuba – the mythical land of music, dance, cigars, rum and revolutionary romance. When I decided to move to Canada, I just knew that the first overseas country that I would go to would be Cuba. For one thing, it’s only 3.5 hours away from Toronto and secondly, I knew that I had to get away from the freezing Canadian winter!
And boy, does the country deliver! It was like stepping back in time 60 years. Since Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camillo Cienfuegos and co, rolled in with their now revolutionary government, they froze the country at 1959. The infamous (and iconic) old American, Russian and French cars are there due to embargo, the people survive on a food rations system and the country’s economy has been in disarray since the break-up of the USSR, and the lack of assistance from the old Soviet bloc. Yet, at the same time, the country has the greatest literacy rate in the world (99.8%*) and an excellent health system (1 doctor for every 170 patients*; source=*Lonely Planet).
For me, Cubans reminds me of Brazilians in the population make-up, with the mixture of European (colonisers) and African (sugar slavery) heritage. Since Castro abolished the class system in Cuba; Cubans are a mixture of colour. From this heritage, Cuban music (think rumba, son and the Buena Vista Social Club), dance (Cuban salsa), drink (rum – mojito, pina colada, Cuban Libre) were born. Cuban culture is great, the people are passionate and the drinks are even better, and of course it would be when one litre bottle of Havana Club blanco rum is only $3.50 – bargain!!
From the cities that I had visited, I would recommend to go to:
- Havana for a mixture of new and old Cuba,
- Valley de Vinales for prehistoric dinosaur-like scenery,
- Cienfuegos to see French architecture,
- Varadero for the resort life, and
- Trinidad (my favourite and UNESCO protected) for one of Latin America’s best well preserved colonial towns, complete with cobblestone streets and outdoor musical clubs.
Of course, the beaches are a must do too whilst you are in the Caribbean’s, and fishing is world class in Cuba, recommended by long-term Cuba-phile Ernest Hemingway, who lived in the country for about 20 years and wrote 3 books about it including Old Man and the Sea.
As a tourist, crime is low and people are upbeat, positive and very friendly, recognising the importance of tourism to rescue their economy – which has overtaken sugar exportation as the biggest money generator since 1998.
Needless to say, I had an amazing time there. Where in the world can you go back in time and see fabulous old cars and horse carts as an everyday occurrence? But just make sure to visit soon because once Fidel, Raul and the old “revolutionary boys” passes on, the country may open its doors to Starbucks and McDonalds, so get in before commercial America floods it! 🙂
PS – Love this song and it means more because I went to Cuba in April! 🙂
Dragon’s April Sun in Cuba – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHFFuukk9Y8