CUBA Overview The tension between laid-back tropical paradise and dedicated socialism is at the heart of the

Cuban experience. Kids jump into the sea off Havana’s grand alecon sea wall! flame trees and bougainvillea paint brilliant colours against crumbling walls and families and friends la"e for hours on their doorsteps. #t the same time! billboards celebrate the #K$% and warn &resident 'ush that the Cuban people will never (ield! and the population is regularl( mobilised into mass rallies for collective raisings of the fist. Cuba lavishes free health care and education upon its citi"ens! infant mortalit( rates are as good as the )nited *tates and no-one goes hungr(. 'ut since the collapse of the *oviet )nion! the countr(’s great benefactor for thirt( (ears! it has been hard for ordinar( Cubans to get hold of pens or paper or soap for their fre+uent showers. an( are turning from low-paid careers in teaching! medicine or law to the far more lucrative tourism industr(. ,ove Pirates of the Caribbean- This is where the originals hung out. *ee the magnificent world heritage listed fort at *antiago de Cuba! complete with fierce cannons pointing out to the ghosts of the black ships on the hori"on. *panish sugar-barons! with their armies of slaves! lavished their mone( on grand homes with tall doors and tiled floors. #dmire them as (ou walk the streets of old Havana! drinking in the scenes made famous b( .( Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club. /f (ou’d like to meet the real man behind The Motorcycle Diaries and a million t-shirts! visit the remains of his flesh and blood at his grave at *anta Clara. 0hile Che 1uevara is forever (oung! his comrade 2idel Castro is now 34 and ver( frail. 0ill this socialist experiment survive his passing! or will Cuba revert to the )*-dominated pla(ground it was in the 5674s- *omething to ponder before (ou throw (ourself into a night of music and mojitos. 0hatever the future! Cubans know how have a good time - and how to share it around. Survival guide There’s one word (ou should know before (ou step onto Cuban soil. /t’s jinterismo 8pronounced hinterismo9! and it’s all about hustling. :ou’ll soon find that there are gradations of jinterismo! from a thinl(-disguised form of begging! to ordinar( prostitution! to the relaxed! intelligent approach taken b( the true masters. This is what happens. :ou settle in to (our accommodations and emerge blinking onto the streets of Havana. &eople are reall( friendl(. *omeone invites (ou for a drink at the bar on the corner. :ou’re laughing! drinking! eating and generall( having a great time mixing with the locals. #fter a while (ou realise that (ou are pa(ing for ever(thing and are expected to do so into the night. 1et wise! or (our personal transfer of wealth into the Cuban econom( will +uickl( ruin (ou. Then again! there’s no need to be too guarded ; but more of that in the Top Three #ctivities! below. Cuba has its share of retro east-bloc hotels with dodg( plumbing 8for some reason /’m partial to these! but that’s just me9 but the best bet is to sta( in people’s homes. # home with pa(ing guest rooms is called a casa particular. There is a well-regulated s(stem in place! so it’s generall( safe and eas(. This wa(! (ou’ll see a variet( of living st(les and there will alwa(s be people on hand to wash (our clothes or rustle up a bic(cle. *ome

families clearl( like to keep their private lives separate! while others will treat (ou like an old friend 8see<en<home.html9. /f (ou’d reall( rather sta( in a hotel! (ou can now go right up to five stars 8see www.cubahotelbookings.com9. /ntrepid travelers 8preferabl( with a bit of *panish9 can use local transport s(stems but nipping across the countr( is a lot easier on the =ia"ul tourist buses. The( are a comfortable! air-conditioned and efficient wa( to get around 8see www.via"<en<9. /f (ou’ve got time! start in Havana and head east for *antiago de Cuba on the other side of the island! with stopovers on the wa(. #s for mone(! there are two currencies to think about> the local peso and the convertible peso which for all intents and purposes is e+uivalent to the )* dollar. ake sure (ou’re alwa(s operating with convertible pesos 8don’t worr(! it’s eas(9. Take ?uros! )K pounds or basicall( an( currenc( other than the )* dollar! which the Cuban government discourages in various wa(s and alwa(s exchange mone( at banks or official bureaus 8never on the street9. @on’t expect to load up (our luggage with Aethnic findsB or cheap interesting goods ; the(’re just not there. #n(wa(! this is a time for (ou to take a restbreak from the relentless consumerism of capitalism. That said! we did bu( some fab screen-printed posters 8in funk( %4s st(le9 and a couple of wonderful paintings. 0hen (ou’re AexportingB Cuban art (ou have to make sure (ou have a proper certificate of sale ; the galler( will generall( see to this bit of bureaucrac(. /t ma( seem an obvious point! but do take lots of sunscreen! a hat and cover-up clothes 8we managed to get ourselves horribl( burnt9. #lso take a small stock of pens! paper and soap and ma(be little souvenirs of (our home countr( to give out as gifts! especiall( to children. :ou’ve heard of 2idel Castro and Che 1uevara! but it might help if (ou find out a little about Cose arti! the third man in the national trinit(. arti was a nineteenth centur( poet and journalist who rode into his first battle with the *panish on a white horse and died within minutes. &oet! white horse! earl( death> an unbeatable combination for romantic revolutionaries. There are busts of arti! looking thoughtfull( at the ground! just about ever(where 8see http><<<wiki<CosDE artF9. ost people (ou encounter will speak at least Atourist ?nglishB but learning a bit of *panish will deepen (our experience or at least cause some smiles. /f (ou like coffee with milk in it! café con leche is a hand( phrase! to be used with por favor 8please9 and gracias 8thank (ou9. *tart the whole thing with buenos d as 8good morning9 and (ou’re read( for the da( 8see http><<<*panish<index.html9. TOP DESTINATIONS IN CUBA Havana /n the 0est! we’re used to privatised spaces but in Cuba! life takes place in the streets. 'o(s pla( football! flocks of school children do g(mnastics in grand old s+uares and live music ; the famous Cuban son 8see http><<<wiki<*onE8music9 9 - spills

out of ever( cafe. &eople have little mone( for luxuries! but the(’re well fed! well dressed 8if disco gear is (our idea of dress9 and laugh a lot. The trade embargo imposed b( the )nited *tates 8in which countries which trade with Cuba cannot trade with the )*9 means there are fuel shortages and therefore the traffic is relativel( light. There are lots of bic(cles and even good old fashioned horse carriages on the roads ; not prettied-up and tourist(! just doing their jobs as part of the public transport s(stem. ,ess delightful but still uni+ue! (ou’ll see bi"arre-looking AcamelsB transporting the masses to work and school. These are massive! tank-like tractor trailers that have been ingeniousl( retrofitted as buses. There are colourful murals ever(where! some militaristic but mostl( of the @iego .ivera<&ablo &icasso-inspired school of sociall( committed art. Cust walk and lap it all up and when (ou need a rest break! head into a cool! leaf( spot for a revitalising mojito and maracas. :ou could do this for weeks. 'ut if (ou’d like some focus to (our rambling! there are plent( of places to head for. Hne of these is the Capitol! completed in 56G6 to look exactl( like the one in 0ashington. )nlike the one in 0ashington! this imposing white building with its sumptuous interior has a low-ke(! friendl( atmosphere. The rooms now house the inistr( of *cience and a big librar(! and (ou can wander around at will! checking out points of interest like the Athird largest indoor sculpture in the worldB. 2rom the Capitol! walk down a wide street the( call The &rado 8officiall( known as &aseo de arti9. This is a great spot to be at dusk! when (ou’ll see that the wonderful ?uropean custom of promenading has been kept alive. &eople walk! en famille! up and down! meeting! greeting and showing off. ,overs smooch on the park benches in the semi darkness while little kids go cra"( with their to( ride-on cars 8it’s eas( to pick who has relatives in iami9. Iight or da(! the alecon! Havana’s famous sea wall! makes an inviting stroll. 'o(s throw themselves into the sea! fishermen sit in a companionable row! their old-fashioned wooden reels lined up behind them! and (ou can see the old ?l orro fort across the harbour. illion-dollar views are to be had from the buildings lining the alecon! but (ou’ll see that most are inhabited b( ordinar( folk! not millionaires> socialism in action. / looked up one da( and saw a lithe old white-haired woman behind her crumbling balcon( doing her exercises as she looked out over the sea. However! mone( is talking! even in Havana! and some of the buildings are being overhauled and spruced up. The restoration is beautifull( done. #t the useo de la .evolucion (ou can check out the bullet-holes in the cute red deliver( truck used as a disguise to deliver $G revolutionaries 8the( must have been s+uashed in there like sardines9 to an assault on the presidential palace in 567%. /t’s here (ou can get the complete stor( of the 5676 revolution led b( 2idel Castro and Che 1uevara! and Cuba’s transition to socialism. #fter that! head off to the vast! open! .evolution *+uare! with its gigantic statue of Cose arti and a neon-lit outline of that iconic 1uevara visage with the legend Hasta ,a =ictoria *iempre 8victor( forever9. Santa Clara

&eaceful! dignified *anta Clara is a world awa( from the tourist traps and disco clothes of Havana. ?ven in the main s+uare! things are relativel( +uiet! the jinteros thinner on the ground! and the women’s clothes more sober. #pparentl(! the citi"ens of *anta Clara cried for jo( when the( heard that the( would be getting the human remains of Che 1uevara and his slain comrades! finall( brought back from 'olivia in 566%! thirt( (ears after their deaths. 0e thought it appropriate to sta( at the *oviet-st(le Hotel *anta Clara but then! in a moment of 0estern decadence! we decided to take a taxi out to the 1uevara memorial. There! (ou’ll see a large but rather ugl( concrete edifice decorated in cheap! communist-era relief murals showing the life and times of the world’s most celebrated revolutionar(. The memorial was built in the darkest da(s of the Aspecial periodB of economic disaster that came in aftermath of the collapse of the *oviet )nion! and it shows. However! it is still a strangel( moving experience to be in the presence of one of the great historical characters of the twentieth centur(. Here! (ou can read a giant version of Che’s goodb(e letter to 2idel 8in ?nglish and *panish9! written as he departed to work on revolutions elsewhere 8see http><<www.histor(<histor(<cheltr.htm9. #n /talian woman we met had tears in her e(es. # Cuban famil( was taking pictures of a small daughter dressed in flounc( pink finer(! a statue of Che behind her. Trinidad/La Boca/Ancon 0hen (ou want to do some beach-la"ing hedonism to balance out (our revolutionar( duties! (our onl( problem will be choosing which picture-postcard white beach fringed b( ro(al palms overlooking a tur+uoise sea (ou would most like to lie upon. /f (ou head for the coast near the world-heritage listed town of Trinidad! (ou’ll be able to combine a variet( of experiences. 0e sta(ed in a casa particular at ,a 'oca! a slightl( ding( little beachside spot not particularl( favoured b( 0estern tourists. Here! we ate sumptuousl( of lobster and other fruits of the sea caught dail( b( the local fisherman and cooked up b( Culia! our lovel( hostess. 0e then rode bic(cles 8rustled up b( Culia from relatives9 to the nearb( five-star resort beach of #ncon! where we la( around pretending to be fabulousl( rich and dabbled in some snorkeling. 0e skipped a da( to lie in bed with serious sunburn 8our own sill( faults9 before riding our bikes to Trinidad. Trinidad is an extremel( pictures+ue town of twisting cobblestone streets dotted with those massive #merican 5674s oil-gu""ling cars lovingl( preserved not through desire! but necessit(. /n other words! Trinidad is one big photo opportunit(. 2rom Trinidad! (ou can take a steam train into the =alle de los indigenes to see the sugar plantations that were once worked b( armies of slaves. :ou can climb up an old slave-watch tower to get a birds-e(e view of the plantations! a t(pical hacienda and (our cute little steam train waiting for (ou at the station. TOP 3 DESTINATIONS O THE UTU!E Santiago de Cu"a 0ith &irates of the Caribbean boosting interest in all things piratical! *antiago de Cuba is becoming more popular. 0hile the *panish were plundering Cuba 8the local indigenous population is said to have been entirel( wiped out in the process9! pirate ships were roaming the Caribbean! looking for wa(s to steal some of the pickings of the ?mpire. The 0orld Heritage-listed *an &edro de la .oca del orro Castle at *antiago de Cuba 8(es!

Cuba is bristling with 0orld Heritage sites9 is a great place to look out over the ocean and think about Cohnn( @epp. /f (ou climb to the top! (ou’ll see a grave(ard of old cannons ; the(’re a dime a do"en around here. 2ast forward a few hundred (ears! and head for another historic spot! the bullet-riddled oncada 'arracks where Castro’s revolution began in earnest. #t the Cementerio *ta. /figenia! (ou can find the gravesite of the nineteenth-centur( poet-revolutionar( Cose arti! where there is a ceremonial changing of the guard of honour ever( half an hour. /n Cuba! ever(thing is about histor(! and rum is no exception. #t the rum museum 8the useo del .on9! find out about how rum was produced b( the 'acardi famil( until Castro’s revolution had them leaving in disgust. #fter that the name changed to Havana Club. *amples are! of course! freel( given out. Ca#ague$ The charms of Camague(! in the middle of the island! are subtle but the( are there nonetheless. 0ithout the picture-book +ualities of Trinidad or the big-ticket links to Castro’s revolution! it is less obviousl( tourist(! more business-as-usual Cuban life! but this is the attraction for those in the countr( a little longer or those interested in deviating from the beaten track. Here! (ou’ll find giant ceramic pots l(ing on their sides called tinajones which were used for storing water. /t was at the museum in Camague( that / learned that Cubans love their land snails and sometimes refer to their countr( as a &aradise of olluscs. 8There are some ver( colourful and totall( uni+ue snails in Cuba! their shells highl( pri"ed b( collectors around the world.9 /t was in Camague( that a friendl( lad( in her J4s 8/ suppose (ou could call her a jintera9 took us to a concert in the town’s sweltering concert hall where there were no drinks on sale 8onl( a man out the front selling salt( peanuts9 and no other tourists! for a sweat(! sit-down evening of fabulous son and the sight of the local women all dressed in their finer(! fanning themselves with beautiful lac( *panish fans. Hur jintera also took us to the town’s wedding palace! where weddings take place all da( b( appointment. 'ride and groom arrive b( the back door in jeans and t-shirts! get dressed in hired gowns and suits and get driven around the block in a beaten up old car before arriving through the front gates in st(le! the wedding march blaring scratchil( from loudspeakers. &hotographs are taken! snap snap! and then it is time to disrobe and let the next wedding part( through. Hur casa particular was one of those grand old colonial buildings full of beautiful dark wood colonial furniture. /t was in Camague( that we ate oors and Christians 8black beans and rice! a staple in the Cuban diet9! and had some real conversations about the state of the countr(! good and bad. This is where a law(er told us gravel(> A0e are an orphan. 0e have lost our motherlandB and told us how little he earned. %cDonald& #nother destination of the future could well be the golden arches. :es! c@onalds restaurants could become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike if )* &resident 'ush is successful in his drive for Aregime changeB. #t the moment (ou won’t find c@onalds an(where in Cuba! or an( of the other homogenous fast-food chains (ou

find all over the world. /f (ou want fast food! (ou pick grab a si""ling Cuban-st(le pi""a from a hole in the wall. /f (ou want a coffee! (ou go into a cafe and order one! and the experience is deliciousl( different ever( time. 0ill it happen- Here at m( ke(board / am now raising m( fist and whispering fiercel(> !o pasaran" 8The( shall not passK9 TOP TH!EE ACTI'ITIES IN CUBA Eat ice(crea# Cuban milk is ver( nice. The cows are obviousl( ver( productive and committed to the revolution. Combine that with a plentiful suppl( of sugar and a hot climate! and (ou get a nation committed to eating ice cream. :ou see people walking along the street eating it casuall(! but there is also the ritualised! highl( social wa( of eating it that happens in the Coppelia ice cream parlours. :ou +ueue up! get allotted a table! sit down and someone comes round with flavoured scoops in loll( colours. /t’s nice to be among children and families for a change if (ou’ve been doing a lot of drinking and dancing. 'i&it a cigar )actor$ ?ven fervent anti-smokers will find a tour of a cigar factor( fascinating. :ou walk round watching people rolling tobacco b( hand and packing the cigars in wooden boxes. /t’s meditative to watch but no doubt boring to do. *till! there’s an obvious camaraderie between the workers! and the( are apparentl( well paid. #sk about the profession of the tobacco reader! if no-one mentions it. The tobacco reader is someone who reads classic works of literature aloud to the workers as the( work 8*hakespeare! =ictor Hugo9! to alleviate boredom and expand the mind. The( started this over a hundred (ears ago and still do it toda(. There’s a cigar factor( at /ndustria street Io. 7G4! in Hld Havana. Hoo* u+ wit, a jintero :ou’ll spend a lot of time shaking (our head and generall( avoiding jinteros. :ou’ll get sick of answering the +uestion! 0hat countr( are (ou from- which is the standard pick up line of someone hoping to get (ou into conversation so that the( can later extract some of (our convertible currenc(. 'ut (ou can make it work for (ou and have a great time while (ou’re at it. 0e 0esterners can get rather caught up in tr(ing to have an Aauthentic experienceB! some sort of pure social exchange that overlooks the fact that we’re rich and the( are 8relativel(9 poor. 0e’re apt to feel insulted if an interaction we thought was social ends up being financial. 'ut ever( now and then! it’s worth going with the flow. # good jintero ; and some are clearl( in it as a serious business! not a sideline ; is educated and funn( and will eagerl( answer (our +uestions and organise things for (ou. /t’s like having a ver( attentive personal guide. *o go ahead and drink! dance! chat! practice (our *panish! teach some ?nglish and give out (our mone(. @o this at least once. Trac( *orensen is a freelance journalist and a former staff writer for the #ustralian left wing newspaper #reen $eft %ee&ly.