I am not the first person to do a travel blog about Cuba and I won’t be the last. Ernest Hemingway was probably the most famous having written some classics while there on ‘vacation’. For me travelling to Cuba was a long awaited ‘bucket list’ box ticked under unusual circumstances. No flights from Scotland direct to Cuba but travelling to south east England to see family presented an opportunity to scan the late travel deals on the internet. In among all the offers of cheap ‘all inclusive’ trips to the Canaries,Greece and Turkey lurked some enticing offers to go further afield. Weighing up the pros and cons of a long haul flight and the allure of visiting a place so unique I went for it and booked the trip.
Family visits can be fun but also stressful. Getting there and being the ‘designated’ driver was really putting me in the mood for a holiday and my thoughts on the lead up to it focussed on what made Cuba seem so enticing? Was it the poster of Che Guevara I had on the bedroom wall all those years ago like so many other people? Irish poster artist Jim Fitzpatrick created the iconic image following Che’s brutal execution in Bolivia in 1967. Iconic seems too poor a description for it as I was to find out.
Jim Fitzpatrick. Viva Che 1968- He now gives it away as a free download as it has been copied so much.
The politics of Cuba were also fascinating to me growing up as some of my earliest memories of anything political were mixed in with memories of being allowed to stay up to watch the Apollo space flights and moon landings and the Cold War. The Cuba missile crisis and the blow by blow coverage of President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev really penetrated my mind and made a lasting impression on me. I was later to join many millions of people around the world appalled by the prospect of mutually assured destruction (MAD) by nuclear weapons.
But memories are funny things. I had also forgotten more subliminal memories of Cuba which were created sitting watching old black and white Hollywood movies with my Mother on wet winter Sunday afternoons. The Old Man and the Sea written by Ernest Hemingway was made into a Warner Brothers movie and came on TV in Scotland to give me a glimpse of tropical shores on the Gulf of Mexico.( The film was in ‘color’ but we only had a black and white set!)
It was a such a great story played and narrated by the late great Spencer Tracy it was no wonder the novel won the Pulitzer Prize. I even re-read it while in Cuba. It has been described well as a book to give you hope and hope was certainly needed in Cuba during the missile crisis as much as its needed in various parts of the world today.
Hope is worth keeping in book form and re-reading to recharge your batteries as and when required. Without hope we are nothing.
A less hopeful memory of the Cuba I had not visited yet was in the books by Mario Puzzo and later the films of Francis Ford Coppola, ‘The Godfather’. In this clip Michael Corleone arrives in Cuba a poor country in the grip of corrupt politicians doing deals with organised crime to ‘develop’ the city of Havana into a tourist destination for millions of Americans. Very lucrative business opportunities for Americans willing to invest in hotel infrastructure if like the fictional Godfather you had ‘dirty money’ to invest.The associated ‘sectors’ of drugs and prostitution were also just too attractive for American ‘business’ interests. (The same cars still roam the streets to this very day.) Revolution was stirring however and it was not long before these same ‘business men’ were heading to the airport to get the last flight out before Fidel Castro and the 26th of July Movement could overthrow the Batista Government.
Although this story is fictional it was based on real life events and a similar well documented exploitation of Cuba especially around Havana by Cubans and American business interests.It was researched and described in a book by Enrique Cirules, called The Mafia in Havana- a Caribbean Mob Story. Another award winning book it describes the heady mixture of anti-communist corrupt politicians,US anti-communist agencies such as the FBI and CIA and mafia style organised crime in both Cuba and Las Vegas. It seemed everything was permitted as long as the financial kick backs kept flowing to the politicians.
These are some of the influences about Cuba that made it interesting for me to want to sit on plane for over 8 hours. I intend to write more about how Cuba made an even bigger impression on me once I actually got there. Hope you enjoy reading this and following some of the links.
Hasta La Vista- Bye!
I was surprised to see that Jim Fitzpatrick was responsible for the iconic Che poster. I was always a fan, as he was responsible for the amazing artwork on the Thin Lizzy albums.
That surprised me too Eamon
The cars – I know it’s trivial, but that’s what always comes to mind when I think of Cuba – those good-looking classic cars, still being driven.
I will come on to the cars in more detail soon
Cuba made such a big impression on me too, especially as a US History major. I recommend a visit, particularly to Havana, to almost everyone I meet, so much so I even wrote a blog post about it too!