Cuba Si o Cuba No?

It’s hard to know how to feel about Cuba, our mysterious neighbor 90 miles to the south. I was just there for four days, in the grip of a charming guide/purveyor of the Fidel-is-Fabulous party line, and it was New Year’s Eve. In Havana. Beer was included in the price of a meal. Mojitos were $1. And music was everywhere.

Even though the buildings were dilapidated (or maybe because of it), the city has an old-world beauty…

…untouched by cell phones or modern cars. In fact, most all the cars you see are old American beauties from the 50s. You can almost imagine your dad sitting in driver’s seat with his arm out the window, gunning it down the highway.

And yet… 53 years after the revolution, most Cubans still live on $20-$50 a month.

Only a few are allowed to work for themselves, and those who do are heavily taxed. The government decides what you get paid, and also pays for your rent, education (including college), food, health care, and most transportation. Communications are closely censored, and freedom of the press is a distant dream. It’s hard for Americans to imagine living this way, but for 53 years, the system has prevailed – and the exuberance of the Cuban people didn’t appear to be compromised.

My exuberance, on the other hand, was sorely tested trying to get out of Cuba, when I discovered that I had my husband’s visa (and he, deep in the Cuban countryside, apparently has mine). After two hours waiting for immigration officials to finish their sandwiches, complete the Feliz Ano Neuvo besos, and stop staring endlessly into space, I finally got through customs and onto the plane …thinking how weird it was that 11 million people there can’t make that choice.

Che, Larry & me.

While I imagine the lives of most Cubans are dramatically better than they were under dictators like Batista, it must be excruciating for those who left to feel like they will never be able to return to their beautiful country. So … Cuba Si o No? It’s an enigma.What do you think?