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.
300 Cuban pesos is about $12 U.S.