Monday, September 18, 2006

Cuba: Life Isn't Easy, but Isn't Bad

From the Charleston Daily Mail, not exactly a bastion of liberalism, contains this suprisingly truthful article titled Seeing Cuba: Life isn't easy -- but it isn't bad. Here are some exerpts, read the entire article here.

Except for the most basic information, most of the articles and travel books I read were of little use.

The thieves and pickpockets on the famous Malecon that runs along the coast and the bike-riding purse-snatchers on the Prado never materialized.

Likewise, price-gouging cabbies were nowhere to be found. Ditto with scam artists, crooked moneychangers and the assortment of pests that usually descend upon Anglos in Third World countries. And no one we saw appeared to be hungry, malnourished or homeless.

In short, Havana was perhaps the safest, most tranquil and "human" city I've visited.
For visitors, Cuba can seem a model of efficiency, albeit a strange one.
"I know it may be hard for people to understand," said one man, "but people are taken care of here."

The most illuminating passage comes at the end, comparing the 'paradise' of the Bahamas to Cuba. I felt a similar jarring of perceptions getting off the plane from Havana to Cancun. I never wanted to go back to Mexico...

In the Nassau airport, I asked if there was a way to avoid the $25 cab ride into town. Everyone I spoke to was unfriendly, rude and just plain not helpful. Strange, I thought, we just left a country where people are supposed to be miserable and oppressed and they were, to a person, congenial and helpful. Here, in a country whose stock in trade is "don't worry, be happy," it was completely the opposite.

Once outside the airport, it was easy to see why people were grumpy. It was as if we never left the United States - we saw KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, malls, strip malls, sprawling mansions and characterless hotels.

On one hand, there is an island that has kept its culture, a strong sense of nationalism and a way of life that is simple, though not easy. Then, 200 miles away, capitalism has had its way with another island. And the result isn't pretty.

Want more reports from the NAM summit:
A nation of jovial citizens - Malaysia Star, Malaysia - 20 hours ago
World leaders need little policing in Castro's Cuba - Rueters
Cuba summit sends strong message - BBC News
Cuba summit sends strong message - ABC News


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