Come and live it

Inspired by one of the many tourist advertisements, an idea occurred to me to attract visitors to the Island.  It is not an ecological tour to appreciate nature or an historic tour of the country’s plazas and monuments.  Stay “a lo cubano,” as a Cuban, could be the slogan of this tourist campaign, condemned in advance to lack interest for its possible target audience.  Come and live it, it would say on the cover of a ration book, which would be given to each of those who embark on this adventure.

Accommodations would not look like the luxurious rooms displayed by the hotels in Varadero or Cayo Coco, since our tour operators would suggest dingy rooms in Central Havana, tenements in Buena Vista and a crowded shelter for hurricane victims.  The tourists who buy this package wouldn’t use convertible currency, but for their expenses for a two week stay would have half the average monthly wage, three hundred Cuban pesos.  Thus, they could not ride in foreign currency taxis, or drive a rental car on the country’s roads.  The use of public transport would be obligatory for those interested in this new method of travel.

Restaurants would be forbidden to those who opt for this excursion and they would receive eighty grams of bread each day.  Maybe they’d even have the good fortune to enjoy half a pound of fish before they leave on their return flight.  To travel to other provinces they wouldn’t have the option of Viazul, but instead of spending three days in line for a ticket, they could be given the advantage of being able to buy a seat after only one day of waiting.  They would be prohibited from sailing on a yacht or renting a surfboard, so they wouldn’t be ending their stay ninety miles away rather than on our Caribbean “paradise.”

At the end of their stay, these risk-taking excursionists would get a diploma of “Connoisseurs of the Cuban Reality,” but they will have to come several more times to be declared “adapted” to our everyday absurdity.  They will leave thinner, sadder, and with an obsession with food, which they will satisfy in the supermarkets of their countries, and above all with a tremendous allergy to tourism ads.  The golden advertisements that show a Cuba of mulattas, rum, music and dancing will not be able to hide the panorama of collapsing buildings, frustration and inertia that they have already known and lived.

Translator’s note
300 Cuban pesos is about $12 U.S.

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53 thoughts on “Come and live it

  1. Pingback: Visit Dystopia - Armando Bronca

  2. Well, the idea was not “marketed” to us but this is exactly what we would have liked to do. The wonderful Cubans we met would not have had room for us, so we had to stay in casas, but at least we were able to share meals with them. We saw the ration booklets, we saw the lines at the stores. What really upset us is that we were chased away from shops and bars because we were turistas. We stood at the roadside and no guagua would stop for us. Only once were we able to board a blue camion (one of the few occasions we were allowed to pay in national currency). We were refused access to the Astro bus that goes from Cienfuegos to Matanzas. We would have had to take Viazul to Veradero and then backtrack to Matanzas. The reason we were given is that if tourists were allowed to use the cheaper buses, they would take away seats from the Cubans. Fine, let the tourists pay the same price in CUC for their fare as the Cubans do in pesos! It’s done at the museum, why not for transport? Of course, some of our Cuban new friends have figured out the answer to that, as we did.
    We fell in love with Cuba (going there was an old dream for us children of the sixties) but really suffered from this apartheid for “tourists”.

  3. I have an even better idea….first dibs goes to naive kid or old hippie wearing Che t-shirts. There really shouldn’t be a choice in their case, they should just be packed up and sent there to live as the common populace. Perhaps ignorant idealism will go out the window when they realize that a large amount of labor goes toward maintaining the very high standard of living for the Castros and their cronies.

    Isn’t it rather odd that there are people STILL willing to risk in all in order to make it to South Florida, given all of the economic issues that we have in the U.S? Yoani has issued a very valid challenge; if you are so enamored of the lifestyle of the poor peons in Cuba then “Come and Live It”…!

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