The enchantment and disenchantment of Cuba

The Caribbean nation tends to captivate the attention of all but a few scenarios may cause disillusionment

La Habana - Cuba

Cuba has been popularly considered an exotic destination where magical and melancholic stories are presented to the wanderer. The country aura’s may cause one to travel back in time to the 1950’s and enjoy its uniqueness. It is then and only then that one realizes the enchantment and disenchantment that the Caribbean nation has on its people and its tourists.

Why does this happen?

The reality is that we're responsible for those stories. Before travelling, one might gather information from people that have visited the island, maybe one follows the news and has a notion of what is going on in said nation, but one mostly builds an image of Cuba in one’s mind. A thought that conveniently resembles one's own ideas of what it is like and how it ought to be.

This is where enchantment appears. We fall in love with its history, its people, and its essence. Upon arrival, this illusion may be well reinforced as we see drivers standing by with their American cars dating back to the fifties outside of José Martí International Airport waiting to charge a fare into La Havana.

Unlike other destinations one might have visited before, Cuba appears enigmatic; the last standing bulwark of the XIX Century. But when delusion strikes, the common traveler then becomes disenchanted, the living museum is not what it was thought to be. Days into the trip, one might realize that simple social issues —long left behind in societies of progress— prevail in the day-by-day Cuban reality. Nonetheless, one is not disenchanted by that, but because one’s pre-conceived ideas weren’t true.

None of our preconceived notions about Cuba are Cuba. Ultimately, it's our own fault if we fall into this trap. Whatever we may have heard of the Caribbean nation is true, but it’s also not. It’s much more to that and a lot less.

If you’re thinking of going to Cuba for your next getaway, the best thing you could do is avoid falling into simplistic narratives that only subjects Cuba into something that is not. The second best is to prevent yourself from becoming that tourist. Don’t pity people, it’s not a zoo. Don’t give away your belongings, they’re not asking for it. Don’t observe them, it’s not a lab. Remember, after all, you’re the strange one in their country.

 

Latin American Post | Juan Camilo Alvarado

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto 

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