A Few Words About Cuba

The author of one book on Cuba in the 1990s implores the reader to "visit Cuba now because it will never again be the same." Indeed, Cuba presents a moving target for anyone observing the society or anyone participating in it.

One constant of Cuba - not only over the past ten years but the past forty and beyond - has been change. In people's living conditions - which have been very difficult in the 1990s following thirty years of development which garnered considerable international respect for this island nation of eleven million people. In its human development - which has relied at times on available resources and at others on the sheer will of its people. In its values - which have always been affected and tempered by the world around it, especially the United States. And in its culture - reflective of all of the above factors, and the subject of ¡Cubanía!


The Hotel Nacional in Havana, recently renovated as part of effort to build tourism industry.

A new hotel built in partnership with the Spanish Meliá chain takes shape in the Miramar district of Havana.
Cuba is a very changed place today from what it was the first time I visited there twenty years ago. A new generation has emerged which shares many of the same aspirations and frustrations of most youth in the United States and throughout the world. ¡Cubanía! is dedicated to this generation, in the hope that it may not only fulfill its role of guiding Cuba into the next century, but also that it help to present some options to the rest of us around the world.
  The "Special Period in Peacetime"

There is frequent reference in ¡Cubanía! to "the Special Period in Peacetime," a term applied to the Cuban reality since the early 1990s, when trading relationships between Cuba and the former socialist countries came to an abrupt halt. Always improvisational in the face of material problems, Cubans were forced to tighten their belts and become even more inventive in order to survive.

Resources previously taken for granted in schools, hospitals, workplaces and households became scarce. Cuba was forced to begin changing the way it dealt with the world. In 1993, the U.S. dollar was legalized in order to attract foreign currency and to ease pressures on the population. Foreign investment in tourism and other economic sectors - a process begun earlier - was more aggressively sought out. Many private business activities were legalized or became more common than before.

The results of this process play themselves out daily in many ways. In the artistic arena for example, more and more talent is being exported or is exporting itself so that artists can earn better wages and generate income for the whole economy. But in spite of the difficulties, Cuba still maintains its commitment to free universal education - including cultural and artistic education - and continues to make other scientific and social advances.

A camello or "camel" bus in Centro Habana. Cuba's once renowned public transport system was crippled with the Special Period. Camellos were created to carry large numbers of people into Havana from the suburbs, but are now being slowly phased out as the country purchases newer buses and parts from abroad.
"For life: No to the Blockade!" reads a billboard of the Union of Young Communists

Cuba - U.S. Relations

The United States Interests Section in Havana
The Cuban response across the street: "Imperialists: We Have Absolutely No Fear of You!"

Many if not most countries in today's modern world exercise diplomatic and increasing trade relations with Cuba. But since the early 1960s the United States has firmly maintained a full scale political and economic embargo - El Bloqueo or blockade as most Cubans call it - against this island of 11 million people located just 90 miles south of the state of Florida.

Only a relative handful of U.S. citizens can obtain authorization to travel to Cuba. Those who spend money in Cuba without U.S. permission are deemed by U.S. authorities to be "trading with the enemy," to use the legal term. Fortunately for travelers from the United States, Cubans have never considered visitors from the U.S. to be enemies. In fact, North Americans are as welcome in Cuba as in any other part of the world.

At many times it has appeared that the United States would finally end such policies directed against Cuba. The Cubans have learned not to wait. Instead, they continue on with their lives, surviving and beating the odds.