Cuba – Havana

Our last stop in Cuba was Havana. Almost as old as Santiago de Cuba, Havana was founded in 1519. There are preparations everywhere for the 500th anniversary, which will be celebrated this fall. It is the largest city, with over 2.1 million residents.

It is a study of contrasts with most of the great architecture hundreds of years old and much of the more recent buildings displaying “deferred maintenance” issues. 

There is a vibrant tourism business, albeit visitors come mainly from places other than the U.S. It was fun to stop at the original Sloppy Joes Bar. The sandwich was, wait for it, a sloppy joe. We enjoyed looking at the old photos of Hemingway, Sinatra, Ted Williams and other celebrities that frequented the bar in its heyday. The second bar is a haunt of Hemingway’s.

While many of the living conditions are very tough, they have made great strides in literacy (from 50% in 1953 to over 98% today). Education is mandatory through middle school and free through college or trade school (including the medical and legal professions).

We were impressed with the Cuban people, I think that they are unfortunate victims of slavery and politics and have been for hundreds of years. I am certainly not a Castro apologist but their life now is better than it has been in the past under various regimes and dictatorships. If the decades-long U.S. embargo was lifter, their lives would certainly improve. In the mean time, they find joy in life and the love for their families and their country. It was fascinating to get to know a little more about them.

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