Cuban Coffee Chronicles – Day 1

This is no Rum Diary, ala Hunter Thompson. Rather this series of 9 gentle blog posts chronicle our recent trip to Cuba. Before I offer my account let me begin with a few disclaimers:

  1. The relationship status between the U.S and Cuba is complicated. My observations are bound to upset  or annoy people on both ends of the love-hate spectrum. I am not making sweeping claims just presenting my joy in learning about a new place. My observations are deeply personal.
  2. We visited Cuba through a “people to people” Friendly Planet Tour. I did not arrange or choose the activities. Admittedly this may have been a rosy “touristy” version of the country. There is no way to know any country without living there for at least three months. My observations are limited.
  3. I, having been born in a developing country am particularly sensitive to economic disparities I see in the world. I am intrigued, suspicious and fascinated by the alternate reality a communist country presents. My observations are jumbled.

Please take the blog posts as my personal journal that briefly sketches what I learned during my trip. Nothing more. Cuban coffee, warm, small, strong and sweet, represents the country’s contradictions and complexities for me perfectly. Hence, the Cuban Coffee Chronicles.

Day 1 began in Miami with my first sip of Cuban Coffee before we took an architectural tour of the Deco Hotels.

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The tour of Deco Hotels introduced us to variations of the American Deco style which included Moderne influences, marine influences, tropical motifs, frozen fountains, use of aluminum and glass block etc.

We were aware of possible negative local reactions to our upcoming trip to Cuba. Our uber driver was second generation Cuban and had recently returned from a visit. She seemed happy for us but many others may not have been. As I said it is a very complicated relationship.

We had our tour briefing that evening with our tour manager Tracy Lewis. I can’t say enough good things about her. She was patient and positive throughout the trip. She helped us fill out airport forms, gave us a summary of our agenda, offered a quick account of major Cuban historical events, explained the dual currency system of pesos and cucs, and warned us not to put toilet paper in the toilets (also alerted us that toilet seats are missing in some instances). This last issue may have been the most difficult to keep in mind. We are so spoiled. I’m sure philosopher Slavoj Zizek would have an interesting interpretation about the limitations of a socialist sewage system. For more on his philosophical account of toilets, watch:

We were to have breakfast at the hotel and head to the airport to catch our charted flight into Cien Fuegos.

We went to bed full of anticipation. This was going to be a wonderful week!

 

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