It was such a grey, misty morning I slept in (at 9 am it was no lighter than it was at 6 am) and now I am way behind all the things I must do before I start packing. After years of talking about it we are finally going to Cuba where I don’t think it will be at all grey and cold but that’s about all I really know.
“Go now before it’s too late.” Everyone says the same thing. They have been saying it for years. But this year really does seem to be our last chance and I am now quite nervous about how reality will match the romantic images I have been gathering in my head for almost 40 years.
Longer than that, come to thing of it. I remember the Bay of Pigs interrupting my teenage daydreams of the Beatles, but I wasn’t very interested in politics then and, to be honest, my knowledge of Castro’s communism is always tinted with rosy images of young Che and seductive old Cadillacs cruising through a beautifully crumbling Havana.
And now there’s the sound of the Buena Vista Social Club and Monty Don’s glimpse of the community gardens of Cuba. And stories of friends and family who have seen it for themselves and clippings from glossy magazines and little shocks of history – I’m embarrassed to say all I know about Cuba’s past comes in gobbets from the Lonely Planet guide book. Trade in slavery and sugar is nothing for the old world to be proud of.
In comparison Castro has invested in education and health which means (according to Unicef) an adult literacy rate of 100% and average life expectancy of 78 years. Which is higher than it is in many parts of the UK.
But that’s all second hand and I know a ten day holiday is not going to show us what life is really like for Cubans. Last night I read Monty Don’s description of Havana – not many shops, music pouring out into the streets. Sounds bliss to this jaded tourist from the east. Lots of Cubans, on the other hand, might well be looking for a taste of the consumer society and some of the money Americans will bring when Obama lifts the embargo. A couple of days ago I read a glossy magazine article predicting that Cuba is destined to become another Caribbean paradise for US tourists.
Go now before it is too late. Got to pack…