Last Cuba

Last Cuban Blog
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Meet Sunny Mouse. The Customs chap came to Beez on Monday morning to remind Bear he had to pay our 20 Cuc’s entry fee. Off they both trotted to the marina office where his new friend assured Bear that the dock master would give him a lift to save the long walk round. They waited quietly for twenty minutes, no one showed, so new friend said he would take Bear.
 
Bear came back to me after an hour or so later slathering, his t-shirt several shades darker, completely soaked with sweat and panting hard. “I hadn’t expected you to jog.”
No I got a lift – in a peddleo.
“Did you have to pedal,”
It was that or get my bloody shins broken.
“Oh, juice.”
 
 
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on and claimed the island now occupied by Cuba, for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a territory of Spain until the Spanish-American War ended in 1898, and gained formal independence from the U.S. in 1902. A fragile democracy, increasingly dominated by radical politics eventually evolved, solidified by the Cuban Constitution of 1940, but was definitely quashed in 1952 by former president Fulgencio Batista, and an authoritarian regime was set up, intensifying and catalyzing already rampant corruption, political repression and crippling economic regulations. Batista was ousted in January 1959 by the 26th of July movement, and a new administration under Fidel Castro established, which had by 1965 evolved into a single-party state under the revived Communist Party of Cuba, which holds power to date.
 
 

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This boat came in yesterday, the lady ‘dangling’ to cool has just set a new non-weighted freediving record. Well done, rather her than us.

 

Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known _expression_ of culture. The central form of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like salsa, rumba and mambo and an upbeat derivation of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. Rumba music originated in early Afro-Cuban culture. The Tres was also invented in Cuba, but other traditional Cuban instruments are of African origin, Taíno origin, or both, such as the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona. Havana was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990’s. During that time, reggaetón was growing in popularity. Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990’s.

 

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Bear taking delivery of our filled diesel cans, off the back of the gardeners tractor
 
 
Bear asked the smiling dock master Jose about filling our cans with diesel, he said he would be round later and the cost would be 1.20 Cuc’s per litre. Later on a chap came to collect the cans, we assumed sent by smiler – 1 Cuc per litre. Later on Jose appeared to take our cans. Smiling he said he was happy we were being serviced...........It’s Cuba.
 
 
Mariela Castro
 
 
 

We have no intention of going in to the ins and outs of Cuban politics but one lady worth a mention is Mariela Castro Espín (born 27th of July 1961 in Havana) is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana and an activist for LGBT rights in Cuba. She is the daughter of current Cuban president Raúl Castro and Vilma Espín, and the niece of former president Fidel Castro. She has a brother, Alejandro Castro Espín.

Her group campaigns for effective AIDS prevention as well as recognition and acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism, and transsexualism human rights. In 2005 she proposed a project to allow transgendered people to receive sex reassignment surgery and change their legal gender. The measure became law in June 2008 which allows sex change surgery for Cubans without charge.

Bear in mind that, not that many years ago if a homosexual was ‘caught’, they were sent to “camps” where over zealous testosterone-fuelled wardens would ‘put them right’ in fairly harsh conditions and accompanied by good beatings. We saw no gay clubs but, a word in the right corner, leads to an active scene, with groups meeting freely in houses.

 

Mariela Castro is president of the Cuban Multidisciplinary Centre for the Study of Sexuality, president of the National Commission for Treatment of Disturbances of Gender Identity, member of the Direct Action Group for Preventing, Confronting, and Combatting AIDS, and an executive member of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). She is also the director of the journal Sexología y Sociedad, a magazine of Sexology edited by her own National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). She has published 13 scholarly articles and nine books. Mariela is now married to Italian Paolo Titolo, General Manager of Amorim Negocios Internacionais, S.A. in Cuba, and has two children with him, plus a daughter from her previous marriage with the Chilean former FPMR member Juan Gutiérrez Fischmann.

 

A woman to be reckoned with.

 

 

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Bear had to have a rest day
 
 
Bear spent time sorting out the diesel cans in the blazing heat, then rushed round to the hotel to change some money, then rushed to our neighbours – Alan and Helen for a game of Mexican Train Dominos. He forgot to drink water and all the several rums and cokes did was to further dehydrate him. He forgot or was too tiddly to mention hunger and by the time we got home at half ten was quite wobbly. Next morning, our supposed leaving day - he was a non starter. I gave him the short sharp shock of salt and sugar mix, he told me I was horrible, but it worked. He woke hungry for breakfast at half past two, felt robbed of the day but soon perked up after chicken and mushroom soup. He went back to sleep until six thirty. Alan popped over to ask us to supper at eight.
 

According to the CIA there have been 638 assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. The $4000 ‘rent’ cheques that the USA write each year for ‘Gitmo’ are allegedly still sitting uncashed in his office drawer.

 
 
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Alan and Helen prepared us a lovely chicken korma for supper
 
 

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Cuban puros (cigars) have had famous fans from Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Sir Winston Churchill to Arnold Schwarzenegger. John F. Kennedy purportedly told his press secretary Pierre Salinger to order in a thousand of his favourite Petit Upmanns the night before signing the US trade embargo on Cuba into law. Cuban cigars are rolled from tobacco leaves found throughout the country. The filler, binder, and wrapper may come from different portions of the island. All cigar production in Cuba is controlled by the Cuban government, and each brand may be rolled in several different factories in Cuba. Cuban cigar rollers or "torcedores" are claimed by cigar experts to be the most skilled rollers in the world. Torcedores are highly respected in Cuban society and culture and travel worldwide displaying their art of hand rolling cigars.

 

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Habanos SA and Cubatabaco between them do all the work relating to Cuban cigars, including manufacture, quality control, promotion and distribution, and export. Cuba produces both handmade and machine made cigars. All boxes and labels are marked Hecho en Cuba (made in Cuba). Machine-bunched cigars finished by hand add Hecho a mano, while fully hand-made cigars say Totalmente a mano in script text, though not all Cuban cigars will include this statement. Because of the perceived status of Cuban cigars, counterfeits are somewhat commonplace.

Despite American trade sanctions against Cuban products, cigars remain one of the country's leading exports. The country exported 77 million cigars in 1991, 67 million in 1992, and 57 million in 1993, the decline attributed to a loss of much of the wrapper crop in a hurricane.

 

 

The original plan was to spend a couple of months stopping at as many places as we were allowed and really see all round Cuba. But as usual our sand-written plan and too much fun in the USA squeezed our time to a week. Not long enough to so this big island justice we confined ourselves to exploring Havana. The people have been so friendly, they have most of what they need but cannot afford the trappings of what we take for granted. They have to save very hard to be able to own a washing machine.

I took our bedding to the lady who looks after the shower block. She charges 4 Cucs per load. Such a sweet smile and a chat with many hand signals, I gave her 6. 

 
 
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Sunset on our final evening
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
ALL IN ALL WOULD HAVE LOVED MORE TIME
                    A PLACE WITH A GLORIOUS PAST THAT HAS LOST MUCH OF IT’S ENTHUSIASM AND SPARK