Category Archives: Cuba Blog
Enjoyed a varied day out today and we had a real taste of not only Havana Rum but also the factory where it is made. Posters and pictures of Che Guevara are all over Cuba and there is also a huge picture of him in the Rum Factory in Pinar Del Rey. We also visited the cigar factory which was also interesting but no photos allowed here. The workers in both factories do not earn much and are paid in local paesos which are not worth much, but they pay little rent and they do get some free cigars or Rum and mostly sell these on the black market.
The town of Vinales was also on our programme and set amongst the lush countyside. Cubans are on rations and I can see why when I look at the empty shelves in some shops.
The hotel in Vinales was built by the Russians and has a real Communist feel about it but the views are spectacular. It is clean, which in my opinion is the most important thing about any hotel. I kind of like the place.
Departed Havana for the countryside. Our hotel in Havan was amazing and all my clients loved it. Now I have to prepare them for the hotels in the countryside, which are basic and have mostly been built by the Russians in the 1960′s.
Our first stop was Las Terrazas – an eco friendly town, founded by Castro in 1961. 1000 people live here and they are more or less self sufficient. This to me seems like real Communism. Everyone working together for their own community. The guide who showed us around is from here and her father was one of the first people to work on this project in 1961. The accommodation is basic – my clients have compared it to Butlins – but it is ok and the residents in this community pay no rent. Life is simple but all have enough to eat. We had lunch on a terrace overlooking the valleys. Simple Cuban food. A local band entertained us and they were excellent. All members of this community.
I also took a ride in a Chevrolet – 1 hour for 30 Convertable Paesos (about £20). Great fun being driven in an open topped Chevrolet along the coast and up into the hills of Havana. The Chevrolet was in mint condition and my driver Raul told me that it belongs to his Father and that relatives in the USA send parts over for the car. This is a sign that things are changing here and that Cuba is opening up. On November 1st 2011 new lawas were passed and one such law allows Cubans in the USA to send money and gifts to their family back in Cuba. This is a massive changer and helps a lot of Cubans keep their heads above water.
The Americans occupied Cuba in the 1950′s and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara led the Revolution in 1959. Many rich and educated Cubans fled to Florida and were later to try a counter revolution which was allegedly sponsored by the USA. Landing at the Bay of Pigs, the counter revolution failed. Castro decided to adopt Communism and became an ally of the Soviet Union, who then became Cuba’s main trading partner through the cold war. The USA started the economic embargo against Cuba. After the fall of Communism in Europe and the break up of the Soviet Union, Cuba was left isolated and with no one to trade with. In the 1990′s Cuba’s economy was a mess. However in 1994 tourism finally arrived in Cuba and hotels built in resorts such as Varadero. Cuba is still Communist today and the USA still maintain the economic embargo.
Havana is full of contrasts and a real contradiction. The colonial architecture and squares make me feel as if I am in Europe, but the atmosphere is a mixture of Carribbean, European and African. It is just a huge melting pot and with all of this going on, easy to forget that this is a Communist country with many people on rations. Plus the old American cars and the Russian Ladas add to the atmosphere. Then there is the music scene! Everywhere we go we are entertained by local musicians and I have already booked my group in for the famous Buenvista show for tomorrow night. Our walking tour with our local guide Bernardo takes us all over the city. I enjoyed my first taste of Havana Rum in the shape of a Mojito at a bar called O’Reillys, where some local musicians entertained us with songs such as Guantanamera!
Had a free day today so decided to explore on my own this morning and chill out on the 10th floor pool this afternoon. Starting at the Revolution Museum, which shows us Che and Fidel’s journey to Cuba and tells the story of the revolution of 1959. Very interesting. The boat that Castro and Che used to arrive in Cuba, is on display here. Also one misile from the Cuban Misile Crisis is outside the museum.
Arriving in Havana really is like entering a time warp. As we make our way from the chaotic Havana Airport to our hotel we see old American cars dating back to the 1950′s. Our hotel is splenedid though it took me a while to check the group in. Early to bed tonight so I will be ready for our city tour tomorrow. But firstly I had to get some Cuban money – the CUC or the Cuban Convertable Paeso, which is used by foreigners here and worth about 1 US Dollar. The Cubans use the local Paeso which is worth nothing.