Ever since the announcement back in December that the US and Cuba are to ‘normalise’ relations I have been obsessed with the idea of going to Cuba. And it seems I am not alone. Working for Journey Latin America means that I have witnessed first-hand just how much interest in travel to Cuba has rocketed over the last few months. Our sales consultants find themselves talking about Cuba every day to people interested in visiting Castro’s Cuba, and it’s easy to see why.
The 55-year long trade embargo imposed by the US has turned this Caribbean island nation into a time capsule whose lid has finally been opened for all the influences of the 21st century to come flooding in. Many have greeted this turning of the tides with joy and earnest excitement; the prospect of improving the poorly developed infrastructure and the lagging economy has led many Cubans to hope for more opportunity and a better quality of life. Others see the news as an unwelcome intrusion into their lives that will disrupt a status quo that has seen them through several generations.
Whatever your political stance, Cuba is a fascinating and intriguing country.
The general consensus is to get there before it changes. A friend of mine recently told me that his mother was in Moscow for the opening of the first McDonald’s; an historical moment, certainly, as queues of people lined the street for their first bite of a Big Mac, but the spread of the Golden Arches will always sadden me slightly. It is a marker of how well a country is doing economically (quite literally, as there is something called the 'Big Mac Index'), but it also means that a country is losing something, a piece of its identity is being chipped away and replaced by the highest symbol of Western society and capitalism.
It’s for this reason that I’m jumping on the Cuban bandwagon and getting there as soon as possible. And here are just a few things that are on my Cuba hit list:
- Bay of Pigs Museum, Playa Girón – a pivotal point in Cuba’s history that later led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is a history buff’s dream.
- Salsa in Havana – with music and dance being so important to Cuban culture, I’m looking forward to trying out some salsa steps in the capital and maybe even enjoying a live performance from some of the members of the Buena Vista Social Club.
- Road-tripping through Cuba – I’ve been told that Cuba is an ideal place to hire a car for its quiet roads and beautiful scenery.
- Cycling around Viñales Valley and visiting a tobacco farm – cycling and cigars just seems to be a winning combination, especially when surrounded by towering mogotes.
Perhaps I will be in Cuba for the inauguration of the country’s first McDonald’s and the anecdote will last me a lifetime, but then again, perhaps I will simply be witness to a country on the cusp of a change from which it will never return. In any case, there has never been a better time to go to Cuba and I am beyond excited to peer into the fascinating time capsule before the next era of Cuban history begins.