This is not your last chance to go to Cuba
Both “Cuba is changing rapidly” and “Cuba is a great place to visit” have been true for a long time, and I don’t expect either to change any time soon.
Direct flights from the US are starting soon, and while I don’t expect them to obliterate the Cuban-ness of the country, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the island will undoubtedly have consequences for everyone, for Cubans and their country, and for us visitors. (For starters, enjoy booking a hotel after that starts.)
Cuba is not paradise, nor is it purgatory, and it’s definitely not Hades. It’s just a place with a different hand of cards, different achievements, different challenges. And it is precisely these differences that make Cuba so important right now, in an age where we’ve globalized both our systems and their problems.
Cuba’s excellent healthcare and education systems get a lot of attention, deservedly so, and we can use every model we can find, but they’re not the only country to achieve those. But how about agriculture? It’s glaringly obvious that our bloated and misanthropic system of pesticides and petroleum fertilizers is unsustainable, but how can an entire country switch to organic food production? Come to Cuba and you’ll see. But do it before Monsanto gets a crack at them.
Cuba’s economic policies are important to study, but for me, there’s another crucial question that I think Cuba might be able to help us with. How can we maintain the networks of family, friends, and culture that make life rich, in a modern world where no one seems to have any time or energy left after they get off work?
Make no mistake, Cubans are eager to join the global economy, and they are about to face the same challenges we have, that choke art, literature, creativity and the sheer ecstasy of just hanging out with kin. I will be watching closely to see how they adapt, and I hope we can all incorporate more of that Cuban good living into our future. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to soak up as much of their salsa dancing, not-neighbor-fearing, painting and music-making philosophy as I can while it thrives.
So no, this is not your last chance to see Cuba. But it might be your best.
(And in case you agree and would like help getting access to all this art, there is a magnificent itinerary available April 9-17 through Ethical Traveler and Altruvistas. For more information, check out the itinerary here, then sign up at Altruvistas.com. Hasta pronto!)