Friday, May 31, 2013

A Misleading Paradise

Claudia Ramos
Reporting from Havana

Sitting on the window seat of our tour bus on our way to the Varadero beach, lost in the beautiful scene I have of the countryside of Cuba, I cannot help but think of the millions of opportunities that young Cuban people are being deprived of.

On January of 1959 and after a 7-year campaign, rebel leader Fidel Castro arrived triumphantly to Havana. Overthrowing the corrupt regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro introduced radical social changes in Cuba, nationalizing schools, hospitals and industries, making Cuba the only communist state in the Americas. Under Castro’s leadership, Cuba seemed to be a dreamland and people celebrated the achievement of the revolution.

However, the story of that “utopia” has changed over the years in Cuba. Speaking to some of the locals in the area around Havana, I learned that life in Cuba isn’t how movie producers and other foreign artists paint it. Currently an average taxi driver earns approximately $12 a month and most people are working up to 3 jobs to feed their families. Yet not very many people know this side of Cuba. Raifel, one of the taxi drivers I spoke to, told me that most tourists only visit the nice areas of Cuba, much like our group today which had the opportunity to visit La Playa de Varadero (Varadero beach) a misleading paradise.

The beach itself had a jaw-dropping view, but as I took a bite of my red snapper all I could think of was why people my age were not on the shores of this beach enjoying the sky blue waves. Why were there only tourists and no locals; other than the ones working in the bathroom stalls charging us for a piece of toilet paper, of course. What is the point of being a doctor, a teacher or an engineer in Cuba, if these careers only help you make ends meet.

On our way back to the hotel in Havana we stopped by a rest area and had some delicious, mouth watering pina coladas. And while we treated ourselves to these drinks, dozens of Cubans, from kids to older people lined up along the road waiting for a ride back home. As we got on the bus and passed right next to these people, I could not help but think of the “paradise” I had just visited and the reality that overwhelms this country.

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