Cuba is amazing, the most wonderful place I’ve ever visited. And no, not because of the rum and cigars (although they certainly helped!) but because of the people!
Cubans are kind and caring, they work ever so hard for very little yet will offer you the last of their rations. They welcome you in to their home, they show respect for others, are intelligent and passionate about their country and their history. But why… The sun? The rum? Again, they help, but no, they are not the answer.
Cuba is a socialist society. They live in a world where incentives are not monetary but social, where you are rewarded for your input into society rather than your ability to squeeze a profit from and increasingly poor consumer base. Their world is one in which every person has a home, has food provided, has free education for life and can access a world class level of healthcare for free. It was a whole new experience to get ill and be given antibiotics in two minutes rather than two weeks and it was nice to know the old man asleep on the street corner had simply overdone it on the rum, rather than he didn’t have a home to go to!
I was part of a young trade union brigade, along with 200 others from all over the globe, who had gone to celebrate May Day in solidarity with the Cuban people. It was amazing to see the Havana May Day Rally in which children carried huge pencils and ambulances to show their appreciation for the teachers and resources that have been committed to benefit their lives. Cubans are well aware that others gave their lives for the freedom they possess today, and they will not give that up easily. Cuba’s history is ingrained in the Cuban’s minds by the political education they receive at school, by the monuments of revolutionary figures scattered across the country and the street art that’s found on every corner.
But the Cubans don’t’ have everything to celebrate. Life is often hard for them; they have had to be pretty much self-sufficient due to forced restrictions on trade. They have suffered years of America’s economic blockade and it has a grave impact on who Cuba can trade with and in turn which resources they can access. And Obama’s visit hasn’t changed a thing, many believe that a ‘new relationship’ has blossomed but since the visit those who trade with Cuba have continued to receive fines from America. American’s can now travel there (and they should- I would highly recommend it for both education and travel) but that’s about it. The blockade needs to be lifted to allow Cuban’s to benefit from this ‘new relationship’ too.
The deal needs a little more Cuban spirit in which benefits reaped lead to gains for all, not just the rich and powerful!
Overall, I had a great time in Cuba; I learnt all about Che and Camillo in the museums, felt that passion and pride of the Cuban people and witnessed with my own eyes what it really means to put people before profit.
It was a stark reminder that ‘otro mundo es posible’ (another world is possible) but if we want it, we’ll have to fight for it!
P.S. If you could do one thing for the movement, please let it be getting another person involved. People are our strength; we are our biggest resource! Cuba reminds you of that J
To read more about the Brigade, find out more about Cuba or the economic blockade, or to organise a visit, please visit http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/