Thursday, July 30, 2009

a quick little essay from havana

i had the brilliant idea of writing blog entries, putting them on my magic transfer stick along with a photo for each, and then heading over here to the havana libre hotel to upload them and update the blog. strangely, when i got here, i realized that none of the files i´d attempted to transfer are on my magic stick.

of course i´ll blame this, as i do everything else that messes up unusually, on the cia. or the agent 66 or whatever those folks in miami call themselves.

i´ve learned a ton, and am enjoying cuba even more than last year. most of that is documented in my blog entries, which i´ll update maybe before we leave, or which might have to wait until i get to texas. for now, i´ll summarize, in these 20 minutes, since it´s 3 pesos for 20 minutes, some of the highlights.

our visit to the provinces was awesome. i travelled to matanzas, to varadero, which is the tourist mecca for cubans and internationals. canadians comprise about 50 per cent of their travellers, and they give us a better rate on our dollar than my united states friends are getting on theirs. of course i´m teasing my caravanista friends about this incessantly. but in a polite canadian way.

we visited the bay of pigs, which is a couple hour drive from varadero. we learned a lot about the invasion, including the fact that of something like 1197 anti revolution fighters, bought and paid by the us government to invade cuba and attempt to establish an interim government quickly, within 72 hours, so that the usa could declare to the world a victory with support of the cuban people, in that propagandized way they function, of those 1197 or whatever the number is who were captured by castro´s government, only 5 were executed. the rest were treated for their wounds and traded to the usa for medicine. interesting, isn´t it, that now the usa holds 5 cubans who reported on anti cuban terrorists in the usa. i wonder if that´s their way of retaliating. apparently the 1192 mas o menos imperialist cubans who wanted to destroy the cuban revolution and were traded to miami have now formed anti cuban groups, including agent 66 or whatever they´re called.

we learned that the first line of defense at the bay of pigs were teachers, though fidel had troops stationed there and all over the island where he thought they might invade. the teachers told the defenders of the revolution, of which there were many, that the invasion had begun at the bay of pigs, and castro and his buddies stopped the imperialists in 66 hours. che guevara had been stationed at pinar del rio, and raul castro was in santa clara, in case the attack happened there. but fidel had guessed it would happen at the bay of pigs since the area´s surrounded by swamp land, wetlands, and he assumed that´d be where they´d land and try to set up their little government. he was right.

people love fidel. we attended the graduation of this year´s class from the latin american school of medicine. there were a number of usa citizens who graduated. those folks are here because lucius walker, and the pastors for peace, helped them get enrolled. the school was set up to help people from poor nations, in south american and africa, become doctors, but lucius and folks helped convince the cuban government that there is a desperate need for not for profit doctors in the usa. so those students, all who attend, are trained for free, are given free housing and food, and a stipend. the usa students who graduated thanked the cubans, especially fidel, for their generosity in allowing them to study here. they said those words through genuine tears of gratitude.

there´s so much people don´t know about cuba. this morning we were at a biotechnology centre and it was explained how cuba has developed vaccines, for example for meningitis. they can cure meningitis. they can also cure cretinism and other mental health impairments. the trick is to diagnose the babies early and then treat them. they´ve reduced hep c to almost zero and there are very few cases of hiv-aids.

last night i walked to old havana with a friend. we found a hip hop club, and also stopped for a brewski at an old hotel that was clearly hurricane damaged but where touristas were having dinner. an expensive dinner. we listened to a trio of very young musicians, there are so many musicians and dancers and artists here as kids are encouraged to study whatever it is they love to do. i requested they play hasta siempre. i love that song.

i love this revolution.

there are still things that concern me about the cuban revolution, such as the fact that cubans cannot travel off the island unless they have an invitation. so, at a public forum where this was explained to us, i invited all the cubans to canada i got the feeling, while in varadero, where tourists stay in fancy all inclusives and swim in the most beautiful ocean in the world, or certainly some of the best beaches anywhere, and fund the cuban health and education revolution, but i got the feeling that we weren´t eating much fruit where we were, even though a lot of fruit is in season right now, because it´s being redirected to the hotels. i learned later that banana crops were wiped out during the hurricanes, though, so that might be part of it too.

they do so many things really well, though. the health system is only the beginning of that. they have people who stand on the highway and organize hitchhikers with rides. the health system includes dental care. the people are intelligent, knowledgeable about the world and their place in it. they love the pastors for peace and understand that the usa citizens are not the government. lucius walker and a few of his staff were ushered to the very front row, in front of raul´s podium, to hear the july 26th speech and then lucius flew in raul´s plane. raul talked about the importance of agriculture, of creating even more of it to feed the people. they do eat too much meat, but they also do all organic and understand the importance of that. raul also mentioned the pastors for peace, and our 20 caravans that have offered so much help to the cubans over these decades. he said all that to over a hundred thousand people who went to listen to him speak, and also over the national television.

there´s so much bullshit about cuba and the castros. i love it here. i´m off, now, to visit old havana.

hasta la victoria siempre!