Apartheid en Cuba
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    Five Nights in Cuba’s Tourist Apartheid

    Five Nights in Cuba’s Tourist Apartheid / Iván García

    Ivan Garcia, 19 August 2016 — On a cloudy afternoon in early July, I
    went with my daughter to the reservation office in the basement of the
    Habana Libre hotel, to reserve for mid-August five nights in a hotel in
    Cayo Coco, in the north of Ciego Avila province, some 360 miles from the

    I started saving the money for it in September of last year. A tourism
    representative suggested the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort. The price
    was absolutely prohibitive for an ordinary Cuba: 1,188 Cuban convertible
    pesos (CUC), which, when adding the cost of transportation, was nothing
    less than 1,290 CUC for five days of sun and beach.

    On the day of departure, at four in the morning, we were there will two
    pieces of hand luggage and a briefcase, waiting for the bus that would
    take us to Cayo Coco. They told us to come to the parking lot of the
    Roman Fonst Sports hall, adjacent to the interprovincial bus terminal in
    the Plaza de la Revolution municipality.

    In the dark, some twenty sleepy people ate a hurried breakfast before
    boarding the bus. With a punctuality rare in Cuba, the bus came to pick
    us up at five in the morning.

    The driver, a skinny guy with a military-style haircut, recited the
    instructions like a prayer. “You cannot eat inside the bus. We will make
    two stops along the way. And those who want to urinate let me know, to
    stop the vehicle, as there is no bathroom on board.”

    The man was in a bad mood or was simply a hurry. The bus, belonging to
    Gaviota, an emporium of military capitalism in Cuba, rolled down the
    national highway at the speed of a Formula One car.

    “Sir, we want to live to enjoy our short vacation,” commented a pair of
    married doctors who had spent two years working in the intricate
    landscape of deepest Brazil.

    At least for domestic tourism, or because they are cutting back, Gaviota
    doesn’t include a tour guide on the trip. “What for? It’s assumed Cubans
    should know by heart their own country,” said the assistant driver,
    shrugging his shoulders.

    Looking out the windows from inside the bus, the landscape of the Cuban
    countryside is lamentable. Bony cattle wandering around hungry, the
    invasive marabou weed overrunning wastelands, and little islands planted
    in cane and bananas.

    On the outskirts of Jagüey Grande the famous citric cultivation plan
    created by Fidel Castro no longer exists. Thousands of acres are covered
    in grass without a single orange grove to be seen.

    “I’m not saying oranges have to cost two pesos a piece. Three years from
    now, given the chaos in agriculture, getting an orange will be has hard
    as it is not get a piece of beef,” commented Joel, owner of a small
    family restaurant who rented a room for three nights in Cayo Coco.

    One of the mandatory stops was at a country estate owned by Guillermo
    Garcia, an illiterate peasant who, after the Revolution, came down from
    the Sierra Maestra with the rank of commander and is known for his
    temper tantrums and whims and who has accumulated more power than a
    minister, despite not having a professional education.

    Former guerrilla Garcia is a kind of “socialist” landlord, cavalierly
    above following the country’s laws. He owns cockfight pits, dozens of
    thoroughbred horses and drinks Chivas Regal like it was a soft drink.

    There is no information or transparency about how the founders of the
    olive-green Revolution manage the public money, including for the
    military enterprise Gaviota. Cuba is a gerontocracy of old cronies who
    took power at the point of a carbine and don’t believe they are
    accountable to the citizens.

    Around three in the afternoon, the Gaviota bus arrived at the Memories
    Flamenco Hotel. On paper, it’s a five-star hotel. In practice, being
    condescending, it would be a three-star tourist center. The military
    authorities of the smokeless industry on the island has a few unearned
    stripes to their hotels in order to charge more.

    Memories Flamenco is a beach resort with an architecture in tune with
    its surroundings and the abundant vegetation. The service, is ordinarily
    lousy. For Cuban tourists there is no welcoming cocktail and the strip
    of beachfront is full of stones and appallingly bad.

    The food seems to be plastic. There isn’t much variety and the native
    fruits are incomprehensibly in short supply. The culinary staff tries
    their best, but their slowness in waiting on the table or serving water
    is breathtaking.

    Don’t come to this spa to eat fish or seafood. The main menu item,
    sliced chicken, eggs in all its variation, mutton, pork and low quality
    beef drowning in sauces and fat.

    Cuban tourists are no longer used to what it was like before, loaded
    down with bags of food and dishes of meat looking like five story buildings.

    Of course, from the moment they get off the bus, there is a marathon of
    drinking beer, rum or whiskey. Although the foreigners aren’t far
    behind. Especially the Russians.

    “There are opportunities to undertake scientific experiments. Breakfast
    alcohol, lunch alcohol and dinner alcohol. I don’t know where they put
    so much liquor,” says a bartender.

    The hotel’s recreation activities are varied and attractive. The rooms
    comfortable and the chambermaids strive to be creative in making up the

    It is always healthy to rest after a year of work. But paying the
    equivalent of five years’ salary of a professional for a five-night stay
    is not within reach of too many Cubans.

    That’s the bad news. The good is, on 13 August, Fidel Castro’s birthday,
    nobody in the hotel celebrated the date nor was there a media barrage
    recalling the ninety-year-old ex-guerrilla.

    It’s something to consider. In tourist facilities that operate “all
    inclusive” there are not billboards in support of the government.
    Something that the Cuban guests appreciate.

    Hispanopost, 18 August 2016

    Source: Five Nights in Cuba’s Tourist Apartheid / Iván García –
    Translating Cuba –

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