Will American tourists change Cuba for better or worse
December 26, 2015 5:40 PM MST
In Cuba, everybody's equal—politically, economically and socially
speaking. Unlike the U.S., Cuba prides itself on being an egalitarian
society. Since Fidel Castro's Revolucion in 1958, Cuba has embraced a
socialist ideology in which the government owns virtually everything and
the Cuban people own equally nothing. Let's not forget, Cuba is still a
Communist dictatorship run by the aging Castro brothers.
Fidel Castro overthrew the former Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista,
known for pandering to the rich and oppressing the poor. While in office
Batista openly "enjoyed a wealthy lifestyle from money generated by the
influx of tourism and American corporations to the island, while the
country's poor became even more impoverished."
"Batista allowed Cuba to become a playground for America's rich. Just
fifty miles from Florida, rich Americans would fly out to Havana to
gamble and to enjoy the good life. — C.N. Trueman"
With travel restrictions to Cuba eased up somewhat, the question now is,
"Will the influx of American tourists with money to spend change Cuba?"
Recommended before travelling to Cuba— educate yourself about Cuba's
history. Cuba is not like other Latin American countries in the
hemisphere. Cuba has been barred from participating in the global
economy for the past 50 years. This has taken a huge socio-economic toil
on the country that is visible almost everywhere you look.
During a recent visit to Cuba, I saw Cubans living in substandard
housing, much of which was dilapidated. Although obvious poverty exists
among the Cuban people, they probably don't see themselves as poor
compared to each other. As part of the Cuban government's socialist care
package, Cubans receive free education, free medical care and monthly
food rations. For the most part, Cubans seem resigned, if not content,
with their lives and the way things are under Castro.
As more American tourists descend on the island in the coming months,
Cubans will realize more how the rest of the world lives. Incomes are
likely to increase for some Cubans because of the increase in tourists.
And although this may seem like a good thing, it does have a downside.
There's the potential for economic disparity among Cubans as a result of
some Cubans benefiting more than others from the tourist trade.
For instance, Cubans who work the streets besieging tourists for money
for posing for pictures, providing directions, performing music or
dancing, selling their wares will likely earn less money than Cubans who
work in hospitality fields or transportation where they receive generous
tips from tourists. As Cuban tourism breaks records, one thing is
already quite noticeable—
"Racial mixes in many settings, such as professional schools or in the
tourism business, the light skinned Cubans hold the preponderance of
jobs that pay in hard currency."
These are the jobs that pay better and provide upward mobility to a
Cuba has a diverse population who seem to get along well from what I
could observe. Being African-American, I was naturally curious about
whether racism exists in Cuban society. The official answer I received
from my light-skinned Cuban guide was "We don't have racism like in
America." In Cuba, about 65 percent of the people self identify as
"white" while the remaining 35 percent is divided between Afro-Cuban
(10), Mulatto (24) and Asian (1). But the reality is there are no pure
"Doctor and geneticist Beatriz Matcheco recently conducted a study among
Cubans of all colors and absolutely all of them had both European and
African genes.— AfroCubaWeb"
As a society in general, Cubans do not subscribe to misguided notions of
the racial or social superiority of any one group. This kind of thinking
left with the wealthy white Cubans who fled to Miami after Castro took
over. Now all Cubans are pretty much in the same socio-economic boat. It
wouldn't surprise me one bit, however, if racism were to trickle back
into Cuba as tourists from America and other countries model such
behavior in interactions with the locals and other tourists. During my
visit, it was hard not to notice how some Caucasian tourists treated
lighter skinned vs darker skinned Cubans.
My other questions concerned unemployment and illegal drugs in Cuba. My
guide said that any Cuban who wants a job could have a job. It may not
pay well but it's a job. Apparently, since there is no private
enterprise in Cuba, everybody works for the government in some way.
There's a government office that puts people to work. With Cuba's
crumbling buildings and potholed streets there's plenty of work to do
for anyone who wants it.
"Some blame the decrepitude on the U.S. economic embargo that has
blocked travel and the flow of goods to the island for nearly 45 years
in an effort -- through nine U.S. administrations -- to starve Cuba into
abandoning what Washington sees as a ruinous adherence to
communism.—Carol J. Williams"
As for a drug problem in Cuba, according to my Cuban guide, it's limited
to marijuana, no hard drugs. That could change as drug traffickers from
outside Cuba get wind of a potential new market. Hopefully, Cuba can do
what the United States has failed to do all these years— after thousands
of deaths and incarcerations—maintain its drug free society.
Cuba needs a complete overhaul of its entire infrastructure, including
roads, bridges, buildings, etc. Large stretches of Cuba have fallen into
disrepair from years of not having the capital investment, equipment or
materials to make needed repairs. Finding any new construction underway
in Cuba is like finding a drop of rain in a desert. Renovations to some
existing properties, like hotels and restaurants, are being done for
solely for the tourist trade.
"Cuba is falling apart -- literally."
When they see conditions in Cuba, the first thing American tourists say
is that American business needs to come to Cuba, put their marque on
everything and bring the country back into the 21st century. Wishful
thinking. The current Cuban government has turned the tables on America
by putting up its own blockade against an invasion of American
capitalism. Cuba desperately needs the investment, but any foreign
companies willing to play will be required to accept Cuba's terms and
conditions, which means the Cuban government will own, in part or whole,
whatever you build. And to that I say—
"Viva la revolucion"
Note: Recently, the government eased restrictions on ownership. Cubans
can purchase homes, and operate small businesses.
Source: Will American tourists change Cuba for better or worse |