Cuba is a beautiful country geographically, and it has rich history.
But unfortunately its not a place I’d go back to.
The country is a perfect example of the disasters of communism. The best analogy to describe it is that its like a case of all the patients taking over an insane asylum, and everyone who knew how to run the hospital left a long time ago. The country is falling apart, literally. Beautiful buildings are collapsing everywhere, internet and wifi are nonexistent (you can go to almost any developing country today, and find at least wifi. Cuba is the exception), and people live in extreme poverty.
Because capitalism is banned, there’s no incentive or ability to do anything productive to even to fix these problems. You can’t hire a mason to fix a crumbling building for example, or go to a hardware store to get paint to rehab a house. So the country suffers from over a half century of rot.
Also, the food is sadly terrible. If you want real cuban food, you might as well go to miami. Pork and fresh seafood are a luxury few and far between can afford here. Show pictures of cuban food in America to cubans in Cuba, and they are shocked and left salivating. They’re too poor to even eat the way cuban americans eat. The only obese people you will see are the taxi drivers who grow fat from scamming tourists, or those in the high echelons communist party apparatus, Cuba’s only legal political party. Only in a communist country can you have ppl suffering from malnutrition on a tropical island.
The effects of ppl fleeing this country for 70 years straight is also very obvious. You wont see young ppl in havana; they have all left for florida (cuba’s population is 11 million, but there’s 3 million cuban americans in the United States alone, and many others elsewhere around the world). And yet, you see no very old ppl here either. I think we saw 5 people you’d consider over 80 our whole trip. Maybe they’re all in far off retirement homes provided by the famous cuban free healthcare, but it’s doubtful.
The talking points that say cuba has a higher life expectancy than the US is thrown around often, but after viewing the sanitation and poverty here, and malnutrition, i feel this is a lie based on skewed numbers by the cuban regime, and American media journalists not questioning the official data due to a decades long romanticism of Communist Cuba.
Locals seem nice, but you wont hang out with them much. It’s illegal for a local to give a foreigner a ride, invite a foreigner into their home unless they have a special permit, or engage in any type of relationship of any means with a foreigner unless approved by the government. Even relationships, friendship or otherwise, are controlled by the government.
The country is said to be very safe by latin american standards, and that you rarely see police, and this part is true. You can and will walk through some of the worst slums of latin america with nobody touching you. But its not for the reasons people would think. The communist regime has undercover police everywhere, as well as citizens spying on their neighbors, and if any tourist is hurt, they will face a brisk and agonizing imprisonment in one of cuba’s many, many prisons (there’s over 200 on the island for a population of 11 mil. Compare this to around 40 in New York State, a high crime state with a population of over 18 million). The slightest crime committed, or even the accusation of a crime committed, will not only see the accused sent to the brutal cuban prison system, where torture or sick degradation of every kind is committed, but their family can also be arrested, punishing everyone. In a culture where family is so important, this alone keeps the impoverished masses in line. So ppl stay impoverished, unable to even resort to crime to try and get ahead. Its an island of dispair.
The ppl are so poor in fact, there are no cafés to even hang out and enjoy famed cuban cigars at. There are no cafes or bars with well dressed cubans hanging out in panama hats and playing dominos, smoking Cohibas. Those days were probably a thing once upon a time, just as couples once strolled through New York’s central parks in suits and hats, the lady in a dress and carrying an umbrella in hand. But like this Central Park analogy, these days in Havana are long gone. In fact, It took 5 days to get any kind of real cigar, and theres no cigar lounges to purchase them. The “real” cigar we bought was so bad, we figured it was a counterfeit. The only good cigar we smoked was just once, given to us by an agrarian tobacco farmer in the very rural cuban countryside, a symbolic demonstration of a Cuba of a bygone era. In a country where doctors make $50 a month, something like a cigar is a luxury the average cuban just doesn’t seem to enjoy much anymore.
When fidel took power decades ago, he shut down all the capitalist cigar factories. Factories exploiting workers was bad, and it couldn’t be allowed. But this presented a unique problem, because castro loved cigars; he is famed for being photographed constantly with them. So he permitted just one cigar factory to operate: the maker of the famous Cohiba brand cigars. The only problem though? These official cigars are worth months of salary for an average cuban, and the cigars are mainly used as a cash cow export to privately enrich the castro family, which more resembled a gangster dictatorship than any type of government (when castro died it was estimated that his net worth was $900 million. He was famously filmed in luxury clothing during his final years, and enjoyed yachts, mansions and cars worth the monthly salaries of 10,000 cubans. Just look up pictures of him in his last interviews, wearing his expensive watches and track shoots and limited edition addidas shoes for outfits.)
Ppl like to also cite cuba’s 100% literacy rate as a testament to the success of cuba. But i found this to also be BS. The one time we were able to access wifi, via booking one of the few “luxury” hotels allowed in the city of Havana, we could finally access Google translate to talk with some ppl. But when we tried showing spanish to the cuban hotel security guard when he was trying to talk to us, he couldn’t read it or write a msg because he was illiterate. So I’m not sure what the true literacy rate is in Cuba, but 100% is also a lie propogated by the Cuban Regime, regurgitated by a willfully blind American fake news media. We unfortunately didn’t have firsthand experience with cuban healthcare, but when locals were asked about it, none had nice things to say. When somebody asked a waiter how he liked having his free healthcare, he said it was awful. You can’t complain when its free, were his words. Another cuban waitress said something similar.
Look at pictures on google of the era of battista, the dictator of the country many Cuban communist supporters love to talk about disparagingly. They say that cuba became better off after Battista. And that inspite of all of Cuba’s problems, at least they don’t have Battista. But compared to Cuba today, battista’s regime looks like a utopia. The city had an academia class, it had social structures, and it had wealth. It had high paying jobs in Havana for those able to compete for them, the streets were clean, and cubans dressed in the most modern fasions, and drove the newest cars. Cuba’s famed “old cars” that fill the city were top of the line in the Battista era, and if anything, are a testament to the wealth of many classes of Cuba in the country. Sure there was extreme agrarian poverty in large parts of the country during battista, but there was also a middle and upper class, and a market economy where ppl could make money or a living.
Now cuba seems like it has all the worst elements of the battista regime, from secret police and torture of dissidents, to all the same, or even worse, extreme poverty that the citizens live in. At least in the Battista era, a person from the most impoverished segment of society could take a shot and working in the many rich segments of Havana society, and pull themselves out of poverty. Now they’re just stuck there, their only chance of a decent life to try and get across the sea to Florida. In fact the poverty in Cuba is so bad, it exceeded any poverty ive seen in all the 48 countries I’ve visited, worse than the refugee slums of Lebanon and Iraq, to war-torn Ukraine, to Bogota, Colombia. Anybody who had any type of money or talent in Cuba left a long time ago.
On one last note, it’s often used by communist sympathizers in cuba’s defense the argument that the US Embargo, a set of laws that prevent AMERICAN companies and people from doing business in cuba and implemented after Castro illegally seized all american owned property in the country without compensation, is the cause of cuba’s despair. But consider this: there are over 180 countries in the world. Cuba is allowed to trade with every one of them, including the nations of Europe, Asia, Africa etc, and everywhere in North America, save for the United States. If cuba’s system is so bad, that it needs to rely on trade with the US to even develop at all, then what good at all is the system that they have?
The best sentence to end the description of cuba with, a country where people are imprisoned for an actual law called “pre criminal prevention” which means you’re arrested before you commit a crime because police think you will one day commit a crime, and where there are people who are serving 7 year jail sentences for stealing half a dozen mangos from one of the communist controlled farm collectives because they’re hungry, is this: whoever the last person who flees cuba is, dont forget to hit the lights on their way out.