Cuba, before the Americans are coming

As soon as I had announced that I would move to Latin America, the unsolicited advice began knocking on my door. From all four corners of the world, the recommendations arrived, yet they were so identical as if they were based on one and the same script: “Go to Cuba before the Americans are coming!”

That warning carries on the romanticization of the only dictatorship in the Western hemisphere, which despite censorship, oppression, imprisonment and travel bans continuously evokes nothing more than images of old road cruisers (US-American models, mind you), palm trees, cigars, decaying houses and dancing people. I am sick of these high-gloss magazine articles from Havana, portraying a paradise, while opponents of the regime and journalists are roasting in Cuban prisons. Reading newspapers or books or watching the news apparently are not activities that any traveler to the Caribbean can be bothered with. Travel broadens the mind? Not like this.

When I inquire with the prophets of doom what specifically they fear from an opening of Cuba, the answer comes almost in unison: “Then even Havana will have a McDonalds and a Starbucks.” – Oh what a terrible thought! Of course this weighs more heavily than freedom of speech, freedom to travel and separation of powers. As far as I know, in no country with McDonalds restaurants is anyone being forced to eat there.

The culinary pessimists ultimately accept the suffering of a foreign population to satisfy their own desire for a museum island caught in the past. With the same argument, we could have denied the path to democracy, freedom and prosperity to one of the communist countries in Eastern Europe. (Eastern Germany because of its iconic nude beaches? Romania because of its cute orphans?) Maybe the United States could re-convert one of the far too many states into an antebellum Southern slave-owning state for the benefit of tourists and history aficionados? I guess Mississippi would lend itself to that.

It cannot be the purpose of human beings to remain poor and unfree for the edification of occasional visitors and consumers of TV documentaries.

The fact that both the Cuban government and the Cuban population have welcomed the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States should be food for thought even for Cuba apologists. And you can have this food for thought before any American fast-food chain will open their first franchise. The people in Cuba celebrated when they heard President Obama’s message about the resumption of diplomatic ties.

US Cuba

A Cuba Libre has a substantial part of Coca Cola. It’s not to its disadvantage at all.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Cuba, Human Rights, Politics, Travel, USA. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Cuba, before the Americans are coming

  1. David Rosenbaum says:

    Very well said!

  2. Pingback: Kuba, bevor die Amerikaner kommen | Der reisende Reporter

  3. Great post, very well written!

  4. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

    I don’t think people ever bother to think very deep. This is because what they see troubles them very much so they prefer not to see so then they can pretend that everything’s beautiful on the surface and life’s great!

    • I have heard this from many people, something like “I don’t want to rad about politics because it’s so sad and complicated”, but I wonder how one’s brain needs to be wired for this to work. If I decide not to learn about an issue but know of its existence, I still have it at the back of my mind.

      But I am not even too outraged about the people who are only interested in sandy beaches and palm trees wherever they go. They are just not interested in anything else, have a limited view of the world, and as long as they don’t expect me to respect them for that shallowness and self-selected ignorance, that’s OK.

      What does annoy me is when travelers or journalists who are otherwise interested in politics have this warped view of Cuba and glorify a dictatorship.

      • locotojhon says:

        “What does annoy me is when travelers or journalists who are otherwise interested in politics have this warped view of Cuba and glorify a dictatorship.”—Andreas Moser

        I know what you mean, Andreas–it is annoying as hell.
        I am similarly, but not exactly afflicted.
        What does annoy me is when travelers or journalists who are otherwise interested in politics have this warped view of the USA and glorify a serial criminal hegemonic empire, (whose current president has bombed (so far) seven Muslim nations, but strangely enough, not the one nation in the M.E. area that has for the last half-century usurped neighboring others.) (Yes, that would be Israel).
        Now, please tell me Andreas–whose (world) view is really warped? (Is anyone less dead if they’ve been killed by a so-called ‘democratic’ nation?)
        locotojhon

      • Sukanya Ramanujan says:

        You have to wonder what they’re trying to “push” by taking that view. What’s really in it for them?

    • locotojhon says:

      Sukanya Ramanujan says: “I don’t think people ever bother to think very deep. This is because what they see troubles them very much so they prefer not to see so then they can pretend that everything’s beautiful on the surface and life’s great!”
      I agree with you, Sukanya,,,Only I believe it goes much deeper than simply troubling them—I think it is a matter of being actually quite painful to us all. Especially emotionally painful. (Ask me how I know.)
      Often, it is a matter of the conflict within the cognitive dissonance that occurs when what we ‘know’ to be true is claimed to be otherwise by someone we should believe or trust. It is why children accept their parents claims—usually without question– regarding much of life—belief in politics, belief in religion, belief in which is best—Yankees vs. Mets or Ford vs. Chevy or BMW vs. MB or Porsche (if German) or even what kind of mustard is ‘best’.
      Much is learned from our earliest days, and from the people we trust most, in many cases going back many generations. Those beliefs are then usually backed up by respected others—like usually parentally-selected clergy and teachers, or in today’s world, most propagandist news media and politicians.
      If faced with contradictory evidence, for the truly inquisitive and pain tolerant, the inevitable question will be “how could all those people I love and trust be so wrong”? “They couldn’t all be wrong,,,could they?”
      So what happens then? Even more centuries go by with people believing that the sun revolves around the flat-as-a-pancake earth. Or other nonsense like my religion (or nation) is the only true religion (or regime), so that means because others are different, then I should kill or convert them, or other equally obscene thoughts or instructions.
      It is far easier to just la-da-da one’s way through life, praying to some false idol (or flag) or another.
      We on the same page, Sukanya?
      With respect,,,locotojhon

  5. List of X says:

    Considering that the only other realistic option for the US was to continue the blockade, opening the diplomatic relations and easing travel can’t possibly be a bad thing. At least when Eastern Europe and Russia opened up to the West, the political oppression lessened or disappeared. It’s picking up in Russia now, but then Russia is also trying to isolate itself from the West.

    • And Russians at least can move to other countries (if they take them in) once the oppression becomes intolerable. Cubans still have a hard time to obtain their government’s permission to leave the country. Some people don’t get the permit at all.

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