Hemingway and Che

Cuba is a funny place. When locals ask us where we are from and we respond with Australia, unlike elsewhere in the world where their response back to us is usually “kangaroo” here we get “Skippy” and often as not a rendition of the theme song of what is a 1960s Aussie TV show. Apparently it has played on and off on local TV for the last 15 years here.

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The other source of amusement is the characterisation of a more shaggy bearded Anthony as Che Guevarra. Over the 4 weeks since I last shaved I have accumulated a luxuriant grey beard and moustache. As an older grey bearded man I am frequently described as Ernest Hemingway the famous American author who spent such a large part of his life in Cuba between WW2 and the beginning of Castro’s rule in 1959. Interestingly despite Hemmingway’s support of Castro’s overthrow of Battista, his Cuban property was taken by Fidel’s regime along with all property owned by non Cubans.

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I feel incredibly sorry for these nice people. While it is good for the tourist to see a nation in a “time warp” where everything looks the same as it would have 50 years ago, albeit decayed, it is the people who suffer from lack of basics. One sees very few old people around is this an indictment of their health care? This is an intrinsically poor country with no mineral or oil wealth and basic agricultural infrastructure. At the height of the cold war all they had to offer the Soviets was the strategic location near USA and human beings. Cuban soldiers fought for and died as Soviet proxies around the world, most notably in Angola in the 1980s. I am not sure what the Cubans received in return but judging by the state of infrastructure it does not look like much.

Revolutionary museum choc full of anti American propaganda

Revolutionary museum choc full of anti American propaganda

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The plaque underneath this tank states that Fidel himself fired a shell from this tank that hit USS Houston while repelling the Bay of Pigs invasion

The plaque underneath this tank states that Fidel himself fired a shell from this tank that hit USS Houston while repelling the Bay of Pigs invasion

These are people who have been subjected to an ongoing 60 year experiment in socialist dictator government. They were introduced to it at gun point and have never had a chance to pass electoral judgement on their political masters. By every indicator the experiment has been an abject failure and there is no end in sight. In time Fidel and his revolutionaries will be despised and not admired by generations to come. The only way to achieve a fair outcome for these people is to relax sanctions and promote trade and contact with the west. That of course, will inexorably change the tourist experience her to be more mainstream and less of an adventure. So, my advice to anyone planning to visit Guba is to do it now before it all changes.

Pictures from across the harbour in the massive fort of San Carlos de la Cabana and looking across to Havana city:

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Revolution square:

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Castillo de San Salvador:

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The Malecon drive:

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Congress building:

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