Lynn Ferrin on Cuba

January 11, 2004 | Comments Off on Lynn Ferrin on Cuba

January, 2004: Lynn Ferrin is just back from Cuba, and we chatted briefly about her trip (which sounded wonderful!): “I wanted to get there before January 1, when Bush Two enforced further restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba…. I went with Elderhostel–which turned out to be a lively and wise group of old Lefties.

We found a strange wonderful country–it reminded me a lot of Eastern Europe and China when they first opened to western tourism. Beautiful centuries-old buildings, decrepit and moldy and collapsing into rubble. It’s a crazy dollar-based economy; surgeons might make $30 a month, but they have free education, housing, health care, and some rationed food. Yet a maid cleaning hotel rooms might make $20 a day in tips; a taxi driver much, much more. Cubans aren’t allowed to have email or internet in their private homes, although they can have it at work (the government has recognized that it’s essential for conducting international business and tourism). The arts seem to be flourishing, but the press isn’t free, and many dissidents are languishing in jail. Cubans aren’t allowed to have cable television in their homes–just local programming–but we were watching CNN and HBO in our hotel rooms. Few skilled tradesmen are left, so it’s almost impossible to get a good carpenter, electrician or plumber. In our glitsy new German-built hotel, the rooms smelled like sewage, and no one seemed to know how to fix it. The countryside was beautiful, the music terrific, and Havana is a fabulous Detroit classic car show. Oh, those ’57 Chevy Bel Airs and Ford Fairlanes! The biggest problem I had was getting five cigars through U.S. Customs.” I would love to hear or read more about Lynn’s trip, but since President Bush lowered the “Rum Curtain,” there isn’t much market for Cuban travel writing.


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