Tuesday 16 January 2018

Cuban society is full of contradiction, now the people must pick their path of change

Stunning but also crumbling: old cars and dilapidated buildings in the Cuban capital, Havana
Stunning but also crumbling: old cars and dilapidated buildings in the Cuban capital, Havana
David McWilliams

David McWilliams

One of the strangest sights on arrival at Jose Marti airport in Havana is a large American Airlines 737 on the tarmac. There it is - stars and stripes on the tail - just beside the huge mural of an impossibly handsome Che Guevara.

Isn't this supposed to be a country under US sanctions? Aren't these the citizens who couldn't leave their country? Cubans once risked their lives in tiny rafts just to get to American land where they were awarded automatic citizenship! Things are changing in Cuba extremely quickly. I last visited this country in 1997. It is still exotic, seductive, fun and relentlessly vibrant, but the thawing of relations with the US is a game changer; not just for Cuba but for the Caribbean in general.

Havana may be falling down but the decrepit architecture is mind blowing, not just the colonial splendour of Old Havana, but the extraordinary range of modernist buildings, surrounded by vast swathes of Art Deco, built in the go-go years before Fidel, Raul and Che fought their way through this amazing country, toppling a powerful dictator with a revolutionary army that began as an original band of only 80 committed fighters.

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