Saturday, March 3, 2018

Cuba...the rest of the story

Part dos of my Cuba adventure.

If you enjoy live music, you're in for a treat. It's everywhere.

.Don't ask if they know Guantanamera.

That's like asking a band at home if they know Happy Birthday. Every band sings Guantanamera. In every set. Every time. Guantanamera, which was a top 10 hit song in the US by The Sandpipers (Billboard Hot 100 #9 on 7/30/1966), is probably the best-known of any Cuban song. Part of the lyrics come from a patriotic poem by Jose Marti, the National Hero of Cuba (see the description of his 164th birthday party rally and parade in part uno of the blog). You should tip the band, of course. If you're in a restaurant - outdoor or indoor - one of the singers will come up to your table after the set and ask if you'd like to buy one of their CD's. The tip and any CD sales is probably all they get.

Driving around in Havana.

Traffic is not that busy. Lots of people are walking around and hanging in doorways. At night there's hardly any traffic, very few lights, basically no stores and hardly any signs.

With one notable exception.

Floridita Restaurante.

It's a restaurant and bar - mostly bar - where Ernest Hemingway hung out ordering daiquiris so frequently that the government let them keep the neon sign and put up a bronze statue of him sitting at the bar.

Hemingway was famous for saying writers should use small words instead of big ones.

When I asked him about that he didn't say much at all.

Out in the country.

We headed out west to Pinar del Rio where they roll cigars by hand. Looks like pretty tedious work, but when you get back home everyone will ask you if you brought back any Cuban smokes. Along the highway - a four lane divided highway with a grass median - you see vast farmland with horses and cows grazing. It seems like they have as much grass to chew as they could possibly want, but the horses and cows are all skinny. Maybe the grass there doesn't taste that great. You also see horse-drawn wagons trotting down the slow lane hauling bales of hay or whatever. Even some with oxen doing the hauling. My observation is that the horses trot along and look like they're having a pretty good time, but the oxen just slog along and look bored.


Of course. Beautiful clean sand, gently rolling waves of pure blue water.

In terms of beach attire, people are pretty relaxed. The European effect is clearly there. Remember, most tourists are not from the US.

What about the people? Do they like Americans?

They're incredibly nice. Everyone you pass has a smiling "Hola" for you. And they love having Americans visit after all those decades. But it isn't as easy now as it was last year. The Trump rollbacks were designed to keep American dollars out of the hands of the Cuban Government. But as I wrote on part uno of this blog, no one in Havana is whipping out an Amex Gold Card or even a pile of $20 bills. No plastic is accepted and no American money. So the only ones who really get hurt are the people like Alejandro who drive you around in that 1954 Chevy.

Or Pedro, who owns the casa where we stayed.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. The most interesting trip I've taken in a long time.

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