Adoro Cuba

Havana.  The architecture, its minute attention to decorative details, recalls a glamorous era.  Many of these lavishly designed buildings have disintegrated in heart-wrenching neglect.  On the streets, diesel pumping brown sheets of metal on wheels called gua gua or bus.  Glassy-eyed old ladies standing by as if in a time warp.  Urine soaked streets. Mufflerless sputter of engines. A man hopping on one foot, following tourists, rattling a metal can of coins.  But the happy laughter of young kids in school uniforms in all skin shades of light to dark brown, the restoration of buildings here and there, the easy smile of the people are heartening.  Hope and faith are survival instincts.

The ghostly opulence of a city, once used as the playground of wealthy Americans, lingers, wants to be revived. Tourism brings much needed income.  Our guide’s humour is passionately defiant: “We have the most doctors per capita in the whole world, but our hospitals are backwards.  However, we're good at taking leaps from ancient to the latest technological gizmos."  The voice of a proud nation struggling to get back on its feet.

Back in the hotel in Varadero, a cool wind blows through a curtain of leaves and white flowers.  The scent of jasmine.  The heat, heavy and humid, soft and breezy, wafts back and forth.  The dappled light from the uva caleta tree throws golden circles on the patio tiles.  The rustling of leaves competes with the twittering of birds and the distant roar of the ocean.  So many shades of green under the bright Cuban sun.  But they become a backdrop to the profusion of hot pink bougainvilleas, and orange/lime, yellow/turquoise stucco of bungalows. 

Cubans roll their hips with such a natural rhythm, as if infused with the motion of waves, tropical vegetation, and bird songs.  Oblivious of heat and sweat, the glistening, soft contours of their bodies seem to meld in harmony with the environment.  Their warmth is spontaneous, their hospitality overwhelming, their optimism touching.

I love Cuba. 

Peggy Lampotang

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