Seeing Cuba for the first time, Christopher Columbus said, “The goodliest land that eye ever saw, the sweetest thing in the world.”
After five hundred years, Columbus’ words are still relevant, and what’s more intriguing is the fact that visiting Cuba today is the best way to absorb the rich history and personal warmth of her people before a wave of rapacious consumerization casts a pall over Cuba’s society. Much is needed in Cuba, but the things millions of cruise ship tourists will buy on a 6-hour excursion are likely not to serve Cuban society in any positive way.
As you may have heard, Cuba is not like any place you’ve been before. Witnessing the outward detail of her majestic decay contrasted against the inner beauty of her people will challenge you in ways that can be transformative. You can find yesterday in Cuba, but I urge you to use your travels to Cuba to break your pattern of repetition, cut loose the modern grid of predictability and allow yourself to be challenged intellectually and emotionally. Ask some questions that Cuba can help you answer. For example, why do you associate newness with relevancy, or is it right to relate material possessions with identity?
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One little known fact about Cuba that is easily overlooked until you visit the island nation is the virtual absence of modern commercial advertising. In fact, Havana is one of the few remaining major cities in the world where garish advertising does not frame the view of every street corner. The same applies to all of Cuba’s urban environments and rural landscapes.
Expect your immersive, perspective-shifting journey to make a lasting impact during your visit and even after you return. The art of slow travel is as much about your inward journey as it is about the new geographies and people you will encounter.
For Cubans, music has a physical dimension as the mastery of a craft but there is also a metaphysical dimension that is a cultural connection to an eclectic blend of histories and influences stretching back hundreds of years. Turn any corner in a Cuban city and you will likely encounter musical Cubans unleashing their gifts, paying no attention to the oily puddles and rusty rebar that surrounds them. Here’s what you might spent days in search of: