Cuba is rhythm, Cuba is sabor - taste in Spanish - and Cuba is a different way of life, a parallel universe in the middle of Caribbean beauty.
Having just landed in Cuba, I start to feel a bunch of opposing feelings. It is raining but the rain is accompanied by a 26ºC of humidity. Through the backseat window of one of these cheap taxis, I can look at this new world. The radio is playing Latin music and the taxi driver whistles, totally carefree. The pavement is broken but 50s-style cars are creating such a movie atmosphere. Old men are sleeping under old and worn bus stop shelters while I am staying in one of the biggest and more luxurious hotels in La Habana. Images of Cuban revolutionaries, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos swamp the city. La Revolucion is still alive in Cuba.
I leave the taxi after paying less than one peso (around 1,000 won) for a 30-minute ride. There is a strong smell I quickly link with non-refined petrol. Suddenly, someone takes an interest in this new visitor and approaches me. He wants me to go with him to drink “the best Mojito in La Habana, amigo.” Wow, I still have to unpack my stuff. Nevertheless, I accept. On our way, we start to talk about what he knows about my country, Spain. Cuba has always been a land of Spanish immigrants, especially after the Civil War (1939). In fact, Fidelito, what my new friend is called, has Spanish relatives living in Santiago de Cuba city. We finally get into a brick worked building. People are dancing inside. Beautiful dark-skinned women concentrate on every single step and topless men catch them with strong arms. I enter the crowded bar, as a strange visitor who is welcomed with open arms and loud music.
I traveled for two weeks across northern Cuba: La Habana, Matanzas and Varadero. Despite the oppressed ambiance provided by the government, every Cuban was wearing the greatest smiles I have seen in a long time. Everything, everywhere and everyone looked so ruined but so shiny at the same time. Was it out of ignorance or lack of concern? They cannot access the Internet because one hour of connectivity is equivalent to the average monthly wage. They cannot leave the country without government permission which is only given to doctors, lawyers and national team sportsmen. And they are obliged to come back. Prisoners in a jail made of palm trees, street food, live music and heat, Cuba showed me that pursuing happiness is not about what others have but rather how comfortable you feel with where you belong.
Alberto Abel Sesmero
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