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TRIP TO CUBA NOVEMBER 2012

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While still adjusting to the twelve hour time lag between Houston and Saigon we joined a World Affairs Council visit to Cuba.  It is only possible to visit Cuba as part of a people-to-people study group with a full agenda, so there was no rest for the weary on this trip.  Cuba is like two countries - Havana and the rest of the country.  We were fortunate to see both.

Havana is still beautiful after fifty years of neglect.  After the government provides for universal  free medical care and free education, there is no money left for much else.  Look behind the facades of many nice looking buildings and you will find decay.  Havana's automobile fleet, including almost all of the taxis,  is dominated by American cars from the forties and fifties.  We rode in a 1958 Nash Rambler, still in good shape.

 Our first stop from the airport was the Nacional, which was a haven for U.S. mobsters in the 40's and 50's. We stayed in the Parque Central, which was fine except two of their three elevators were out of service.  On our second day we had an extensive walking tour of the downtown area.  Our tour guide Claudia enjoyed a Cuban cigar after dinner.

 

 

We spent a couple of days in little towns called Cienfuegos and Trinidad.  They are about a five hour drive from Havana.  Horse and buggy is the popular mode of transport here.  Along the way we stopped at the Bay of Pigs where there is a museum celebrating the botched invasion.  We were entertained by a choir in Trinidad - they sang like angels.  We also visited a botanical gardens where one of the botanists gave us an interesting tour of the local flora.

The legend of Ernest Hemingway lives in Cuba.  We visited his house and fishing boat on his property near Havana.  The house contains thousands of books and a lot of valuable art work.  We also visited his favorite bar in Havana, the Floridita, home of the daiquiri. 

 

Every day was programmed from morning to night.  We saw a performance by a Flamenco dance troupe, attended a rehearsal by the National Ballet Company, visited a farm co-op, went to meet with various artists, had lectures every day by economists, architects, sociologists, and political scientists.  We also met with a US State Department representative at the Special Interests Section.  The former presidential palace has been turned into a Museum of the Revolution.