I’m an American living in Mexico City. So I must leave Mexico every six months to reset my visa and stay legal. I chose Cuba for my most recent border run, and visited three different cities while I was there – Havana, Viñales, and Trinidad. Here are my thoughts on the ‘Socialist Paradise.’
This was the very first thing I noticed, before I even left the airport. Cuban women are extremely attractive – the island is packed full of fine young females. Better than Mexico City, and on par with Medellín. There’s a healthy mix of white girls, mixed-race cuties, and black women. And Cuban women are all natural, since they don’t really have plastic surgeons yet. I didn’t hook up with any Cuban girls, unfortunately. But I did meet a nice Spanish girl in Trinidad. ?
Most Cuban men were friendly, but they often displayed aggressive body language. They can be intimidating because they hang out in big groups on narrow streets. Many Cuban men are surprisingly big guys. And they’ll touch you when they speak to you – your taxi driver might slap you on the knee to emphasize his jokes. This is uncomfortable until you realize that touching is just part of their culture.
The Cuban Mindset
Cuban people are hustlers, they’re always trying to make a peso. They see foreigners as walking wallets, which gets tiring if you’re a tourist. Some are shameless – several Cubans straight up asked me for free clothing; they literally wanted the shirt off my back! That’s because they’re used to liberal foreigners giving them handouts. But I also met sweet Cubans who were genuinely interested in me. Many seemed wistful and regretful and kind of sad. They know the outside world is doing better than them – and they don’t like it.
Beaches & Countryside
I’ve been to beautiful beaches. But Cuba has some of the best I’ve ever seen. Just great. And I didn’t even visit the nicest one, in Varadero! I was also blown away by the countryside. Green, lush, and gorgeous. The Viñales Valley is spectacular, it’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever visited.
Poverty & Filth
The country is shockingly poor. 60 years of socialism have taken a brutal toll. Of course, poverty is common all over Latin America. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen such abject and desperate poverty as I saw in Cuba. They just don’t have any way of making money. And it shows.
Latin America isn’t the cleanest place. But Cubans take it to a whole other level. Some parts of Havana were absolutely trashed. Imagine large piles of garbage, filled with dead animals and feces, festering in the hot Cuban sun for weeks. And no one cares.
Despite the trash, Cuban air is pure and clean. They have no real economy or factories to speak of, so there’s almost no air pollution. Sure, the ubiquitous classic cars spew exhaust in the metro areas. But all the big cities are on the coast, so daily sea breezes purge the air and keep it fresh.
Cuba is famous for them, and yeah they’re everywhere – the island is full of old American cars and trucks. It’s pretty interesting at first, to see them tooling around. But those cars mask a gritty reality. After the Revolution in 1959, Cubans couldn’t buy any more American vehicles. So they still use the classics, not because it’s cool, but because that’s all they have.
Cubans Need Clothes
Cubans are fashionable. But because of trade embargoes, there’s a serious lack of clothing. It’s hard for Cubans to get new clothes. Many wear stuff that’s been donated by sympathetic liberal tourists. On the way back to Mexico City, I met two older Cuban gentleman on the plane. They were going to Mexico City on business – they were buying cheap clothes in Mexico to sell for a profit back Cuba.
Cuban Food Is Bad
I love Cuban food, I eat it all the time. And so I know for a fact – Cuban food in the United States (and Mexico!) is way better than Cuban food in Cuba. Crazy but true. Why? It all comes down to quality of the ingredients. In Cuba, most food is simply low-quality. So it just isn’t as good.
I experienced zero anti-Americanism. Cubans never made me feel unwelcome. They’d all met Americans before, and many have relatives in America. So it’s no big deal to them. I did see anti-American billboards in some rural areas. But the signs were decrepit and faded, just old propaganda left over from the 1960’s.
Cubans worship Ernesto “Che” Guevara like they love Fidel. The famous Che image is everywhere. Sure he helped the Castros during the Revolution. But Che was from Argentina. So in my opinion, it’s odd that Cubans are so obsessed with a foreigner who had zero Cuban blood.
There were way too many tourists in Cuba. Swarms of Europeans and Asians. It was ridiculous – almost uncomfortable. But it’s also what you make of it. Sure all the best sites were full of slack-jawed foreigners. But more tourists also means more opportunities to make new friends.
Fidel Castro died the day I left Cuba.
So I’m glad I got to experience the country at the end of that era, during Fidel’s last days.
Because soon, the country will open up to America.
And then it’ll never be the same again.
Have you been to Cuba? What did you think?
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