Updated: 8-dec-08
© Stephen Bennett 2000-2005

CUBA JOURNAL



Illegal for Americans because of the Kennedy 1960s initiated trade embargo. A clandestine adventure with a sneaky entry through Cancun, Mexico. New York to Cancun, bribe immigration 10 bucks for no exit visa then a Cubana Airlines jumbo jet-hand painted on the interior, dried drips in a color that does not match under color. Half can beers handed out to everyone, with a blonde haired Russian pilot who is speaking the lispy Spanish I have heard from Spain. Worried about Cuban immigration but have dollars, 5 bucks folded in my passport gets me no immigration stamp. Free to go!

Pounded out, faded red Ford from the 50's with a Toyota engine, wobble and hang on tight till we get to old Havana (La Havana Vieja), the heart of Havana. The Malecon highway embraces Havana on the coast, crumbling faded stone mansions roll by facing the sea. Fisherman work floating in patched tire inner tubes, boats aren't encouraged. Thousands have floated out and they still escape to become New York Yankee baseball million dollar pitchers, all you have to do is touch the shore of America and you cannot be deported, those who are caught at sea go back.

2-dollar lobsters in Chinatown on a folding table. Convert dollars to Cuban Pesos killer rate but dollars are the money of the street. Ration stations with a few takers, tattered ration books, sugar, coffee and rice in worn wooden buckets, tobacco is also rationed. Rumor has it that if you don't attend the televised political rallies with you don't get your ration book renewed for the next month, insuring good attendance.

Fidel-TV every night, on every channel. A cigar box hides a jerry rigged satellite TV de-scrambler. Spend the night in a Casa Particular, government licensed apartment owners who rent out rooms to tourists. Next night with friends, mattress has a basketball size hole exposing the springs and the pillow is stuffed with plastic bags and cigarette packages to fill it out. Cohiba Cigars offered all over, some are real; sales boys mock smoking them and full of fun. Intense street baseball games, balls of tape and string. Ham and Cheese on white bread and fries on every menu. Veggies and fresh meat is in short supply. White haired, white sneaker, Italian tourists hand in hand with 6 foot black girls in glowing Spandex. Bus lines in the streets that would fill 10 busses, strange camel hump busses are standing room only.

Rental car with a 10 liter fuel tank, east to Camaguey, hitch hikers fill the car in minutes, if you have any conscience you cannot drive with an empty back seat. A huge sense of safety all around. Gasoline is 5 buck a gallons. Horse and carriages along the road. Sugar cane blocking out the sunset goes on forever. Bright Blue Russian 12-seater Bi-plane flight to Jardines de la Reina. Islands of tame Iquanas and white sand we play on the beaches all day. Fill the back seat of our rental car with weary fellow travelers who have been waiting for the buss inlines on every road all day.