An escape to Cuba

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It’s good – therapeutic in fact – to get away from the USA periodically. For me recently it was a week-long “escape” to Cuba, an incredible slice of paradise located a mere 90 miles south of Miami. But despite an awesome week in Havana and the surrounding countryside, I left feeling cheated by a distorted history – and “fake news” – about Cuba. I’ll tell you why toward the end. But first, here’s a summation of a richly rewarding experience.

Our entourage consisted of family and friends. And get this – I actually survived and entire week without internet and phone service; a fact that, in hindsight, was par for the course. Not only did I need an escape from the US, a simultaneous escape from social media and phone access was perfectly-timed.

Now, about the Cuban people and where and how they live, those in the “inner city” of Havana where we chose to stay.

If certain words best describe the Cuban people, for me it would be proud and at peace. They seemed to mind their business while going about their business. No one seemed to be much in a hurry there. Even the chickens pranced lazily through countryside front yards and the city sparrows seemed to fly slower.

And throughout the humid days and well into the evenings, folks sat on stoops or just inside crowded apartments, fanning themselves before TV sets, chatting away in Spanish. Sheets and clothes flapped drying in warm winds on balconies high above busy streets buzzing with old cars, bare chested boys shooting marbles and kicking soccer balls and alley cats sifting through trash bins. People of all hues, genders and ages strolled the streets in perfect harmony. Even the crumbling buildings and roads begging for repair after decades of neglect had a subtle message in them, indications of perseverance despite decades of embargo and isolation. And amid all that – and to our surprise – we felt safer there than we sometimes feel in cities and suburban areas across the US.

Turning now to few words about the cars; my, my, my, the cars.

50+ year old Chevys, Olds, Fords, Buicks, painted in bright red, green, yellow, blue and orange, many repurposed with diesel engines, owned the roads. Or in many cases they sat parked near sidewalks with beaming owners buffing them in the hot afternoon sun, or standing alongside them flashing “yes, this is mine” smiles across their sun-darkened faces. On day two, six of us squeezed into a 62 year old Chevy for a short ride to the marketplace and sat quietly soaking up the old car smell and the cigar smoke in what felt like a trip back into the “old days.”

Now under normal circumstances, a two-hour ride in a creaky old bus on hard seats across the country would have pushed hard on my irritability button, but this time it was different. The breath-taking view of the tobacco and corn fields and mango trees coupled with two four year old kids yanking at my hair – actually made me relish and enjoy the inconvenience. I kid you not.

But as the saying goes, “every good thing must come to an end!” For us it was leaving Cuba. The other was two Americans – one a loud-mouth drunk on the flight back, the other a “sister” with an attitude in a long line in the airport, both of whom reminded us that we were back in the good ole USA.

I’ll end with why I felt cheated by this trip.

You see, Cuba seemed to be sidelined in history books, reduced to a few paragraphs with Fidel Castro as its foremost antagonist, the Cuban missile crisis as it signature event and insinuations of a dilapidated dumping ground for old cars and refuge for communists. However, a visit to Cuba will question those notions. So once again the old saying holds true… “Until the lions get to tell their story, the tale of the hunt will always be told from the perspective of the hunter.”

Am I suggesting rewriting world history here, revisionism perhaps?

No, not at all. But wait. Maybe I am.

Dammit!

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer, trainer and story teller. He is a senior associate at Diversity Wealth, a contributing writer with The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Huffington Post and New York-based Catalyst. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

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