Cuba is a small island nation in the Caribbean Sea just 90 miles off of Florida's southern tip. It has been a difficult destination for U.S. travelers since the U.S. placed the embargo on Cuba's revolutionary communist government, led by Fidel Castro, during the cold war. Over the past century, Cuba and its capital, Havana?, have become synonymous with cigars, rumba music, rum, beautiful weather, and tropical beauty. Since the embargo, however, all of these treasures now carry the unfortunate connotation of unattainability.
I have been to Cuba 13 times since 1999 and found it to be a most remarkable place and it's people extremely friendly and eager to meet foreigners. You can find many reviews and web sites with information about Cuba Tourism but very few that give a real behind the scenes view of Cuba.
All of my visits have been while leading a U.S. licensed religious mission to a small village called Yaguajay which is on the northern coast about half way between Havana and Guantanamo.
Walking the streets of Yaguajay or most of the small towns in Cuba is like turning the clock back 45-50 years to the time when milk was delivered to your door, when the corner market was the only source of groceries, riding a bicycle or walking to visit neighbors was commonplace, and when only a handful of your neighbors actually had telephones. The most common form of entertainment in Yaguajay is to simply stroll the street, meeting and greeting neighbors. In the late afternoon everyone is out on their porch socializing.
Community, family, friends and faith are important to the people of Cuba. Every evening the church would be filled to capacity with people who eagerly wanted to hear the Gospel. It was these people who helped me see the OTHER side of life in Cuba. While on one hand it is a simple life it is also filled with hardship and poverty. The average wage in Cuba is around $8-$12USD /Month. Even so, you will likely not encounter panhandlers – certainly not in the smaller villages.
The entire island is beautiful. Yet, very few people venture outside of Havana, Varadaro, Trinidad, Cienfuegos or one of the other tourist destinations. If given the opportunity to visit Cuba I encourage you to try and stay with a local or in one of the many bed and breakfasts called ‘Casa Particular’ where you will begin to see and experience some of what I call ‘Real Cuba’. Bring some hard candies, gum, marbles, yo-yo’s or other small items that are easy to pack as they make great gifts to the people young and old that you will meet throughout your travel.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Languages: Spanish and English
Time Zone: UTC-5
Currency: Cuban Peso
Power: 220 V 60 Hz
Climate: Tropical climate so expect hot humid days and a great wet season