My Trip to Cuba

by Eleanor Chatman

Yes, I know what you have been hearing about Cuba, thanks to the thaw in U.S. relationships with the country that has been cold for more than 50 years.

You have probably also often wondered exactly what was going on in that small Caribbean island that is not far from the United States. Well, I had been hearing and thinking about those things as well – the dictator Fidel Castro, the restrictions placed on religions and the list goes on.

So I decided to see for myself. The flight from the United States is a short one since Havana is only 90 miles from Miami. After landing in Havana, I had no problems going through customs and fluent English was spoken everywhere.

Trinidad, where much of the tobacco that makes Cuba’s world-famous cigars comes from, is also where the Bay of Pigs occurred.

The drive to my hotel was in a new air-conditioned automobile. Yes, I did emphasize new model, because from all the photos I had seen of Cuba, I was under the impression that all the automobiles and buses there were from the 1950s.

Not so. In fact, I saw Mercedes, Audis and Bentleys, just to mention a few of the modern luxury vehicles that were rolling around. I had forgotten that the United States of America is the only country that barred its citizens from traveling to Cuba.

Streets Of Cuba
Streets Of Cuba

En route to our hotel, I saw new modern lodgings like the Melia Hotel, which is part of a Spanish hotel chain. Other modern hotels are owned by Canadian hotel chains.

My stay was in the National Hotel, which is the grand hotel of Cuba. I immediately felt grand walking into the lobby, with its marbled floors and crystal hanging chandeliers.

I was handed a mojito, the national drink of Cuba. The hotel has old charm and sophistication. The likes of Nate King Cole, Muhammad Ali, Whitney Houston and other greats stayed there.

I couldn’t wait to visit the city of Havana, starting with Old Havana, where no one is a stranger, the scent of fresh flowers is in the air, the street musicians never stop playing, the beautiful ladies and handsome men smile at you and the children happily play.

The smell of fresh flowers is in the air and beautiful ladies and handsome men smile at you every where you go.
The smell of fresh flowers is in the air and beautiful ladies and handsome men smile at you everywhere you go.

I found myself walking down the street with a beat…sometimes my steps would be jazzy and at other times they took on a slow blues beat. The art galleries are among the best anywhere you travel. In fact, Cuban art is considered one of its national treasures and must be registered before it leaves the country.

There are so many places of interest in Cuba, it was difficult for me to select. I visited the city of Matanzas, which has a large Afro-Cuban population and just a few years ago opened its Afro-Cuban museum.

It traces the voyages from Africa to Cuba, giving many details of the people and what they did after arriving in Cuba. Here is where you will hear some great jazz and other music from an all-lady band. Dizzy Gillespie influenced the music of Cuba greatly and it still shows his influences.

Obama's Visiting Cuba
Obama’s Visiting Cuba

The next city I visited was Trinidad, where I felt like I was really in an old colonial town. This is the area where much of the tobacco that makes those world-famous cigars comes from and again, the art galleries and museum are great.

Not far from Trinidad is where the Bay of Pigs occurred. You would never suspect any adverse happening in this beautiful beachfront city.

My final stop was in Santiago de Cuba with its very large Afro-Cuban population. It is the second largest city in Cuba, second only to Havana, and draws people from all over for its music and art. It is also known as the birthplace of the Salsa dance and even better known as the birthplace of the Cuban Revolution.

I left Cuba knowing I would be returning many times and you may want to consider visiting this fantastic country, as well.

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  • Great, Great article on Cuba, it really did take the Myth out. I would love to take that trip and experience for myself, and especially the fact that they are so well known for Jazz !!

  • I enjoyed reading your very informative article. What were the racial demographics in Cuba and were Black Cubans generally seen in prestigious positions?

    • Eleanor Chatman, whom I think you know, wrote that article and has visited the Island quite a bit is the author of the article. I have not been there, but hope to go.

  • I went to Cuba back in 2000 and thought the US spread much negative propaganda about this wonderful island. I too walked a lot through Havana, people were friendly and accommodating . Went to an area outside of Havanna called Vera Derro , the beach was pristine. A little country where education and health care is free. They did it with their limited resources and the US does not want to entertain the idea.Where a doctor and a nurse must live every couple of blocks within a community, each community has a neighborhood watch. Where preventative medicine is practiced aggressively. It has its problems, but so do we.

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