Posted March, 2013

CUBA - 2012 Chronicle and perspective.
For my wife Janet and me, an unexpected door opened offering a chance to travel to Cuba in late November, 2012 with daughter Liz, her husband Jake, and two year-old Adele. Two friends, one of whom works for the US State Department in Havana, have lived there for nearly two years - their invitation facilitates our visit. With their help and direction through several months of shuffling paperwork but mostly waiting, our US travel clearances, Cuban visa applications, and licenses to do business in Cuba all cleared on time. We were without our passports for many weeks, awaiting their clearance and return from the Cuban Consulate in Washington. Our licenses to do business in Cuba from the US Treasury Department are merely permits for us to spend US dollars there legally - even Adele needs one.

Beyond collecting scant bits of knowledge from our friends, to prepare ourselves, we browsed a few travel guides and during our wait we have been researching places to stay. We studied the history of Cuba from a book that seemed to go a long way to avoid offending the Castros, and read both the blog and a book of internationally renowned Cuban dissident Yoani Sanchez, to get a more liberal Cuban perspective. We were clearly directed in capital letters NOT to bring Yoani's book on the flight to Havana with us. We feel much more Cuba-savvy and we may now know more about Cuba than the average US citizen, but we've collectively only moved the needle a shade above ignorance. Before arriving, we have only a vague idea of what awaits us.

Our visit was for a week and we traveled only in and near Havana. I have not become an authority on Cuba, but merely a reporter on a self-imposed assignment, which mostly infused more curiosity than knowledge. The more we learn, the more we realize what we don't know. For fear that my memories and observations will melt away, and for the benefit of a few interested souls, here is my chronicle and perspective.

Sorry, it's a bit of a marathon - I trimmed it down a lot and this is the still lengthy result.


P.S. Added 2014, December: Things are changing in Cuban relations subject to our president's executive actions - some comments here may no longer be valid. But I also fear that the truth will fall far short of expectations of most U.S. citizens. There also will be many unintended consequences to observe - this will be an interesting time, regardless of whether the results are viewed as positive or negative. More related comments at the end of the addendum.

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Casa de Fuster, the artist's home.

Good quality ron (rum) de Cuba is por la casa (on the house) in many restaurants.