Thursday, May 16, 2013

A growing industry

Kaitlin Gillespie,
Reporting from Havana
The rum flows freely in Cuba.
Only in this country would our tour guide shout out that we’re making a pina colada and bathroom break on the way to the beach. Small huts stand by the side of the freeway, pineapples lined up on the bar, ready to be filled with rum and gobbled up by thirsty travelers.

These stops are gimmicky. They’re crowded by Europeans and Canadians. And, whether it’s obvious or not, a part of an increasingly important piece of Cuba’s economic survival: tourism.
Tourism makes up about $2.5 billion of Cuba’s economy, according to an American official at the United States Interests Section.
And it’s an industry that has Cubans leaving jobs in more advanced professions. In our day to day adventures, we met men and women who had left highly skilled professions—engineers, doctors—to take jobs that might mean tourists’ generous tips.
The average Cuban makes an estimated $19 a month, regardless of profession. A man we met mentions a friend of his, a former gynecologist, who has since opened a taco stand because he can make more money that way. 
And I suspect that as tourism grows in this tropical "paradise," so too will the number of people leaving those professions. I'm bothered as I sit on beaches, staring at the beautiful coastlines. There are hotels here, certainly, but not what I know could be. I imagine a skyline interrupted by massive American resorts. Perhaps Donald Trump will open one here someday, if the embargo ever ends.
Though I know how important it is to Cuba's economy, the idea of this society that remains so untouched by the first world becoming a tourist trap troubles me. Will more men and women leave their jobs to join that industry? Will it become the only hopeful industry in this country?
I can’t imagine that feeling. Though I recognize that I’m young, don’t have a family or a mortgage to pay for, the idea of setting aside my passion is unfathomable to me. Yet that’s the nature of a country that pays its people nearly equally: regardless of your passion, the return is the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment