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The Cuban Caribbean

Returning to ‘communism’, that is to say a country ruled by a totalitarian socialist system, does not improve the mood at all. I remember well the end of the 1970s and the 1980s. Rest assured that I will not bore my teenagers and young adults, for whom these times are supposedly prehistoric, with those memories.
Published: January 14, 2015 - 19:21
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 09:27
The Cuban Caribbean

Returning to ‘communism’, that is to say a country ruled by a totalitarian socialist system, does not improve the mood at all. I remember well the end of the 1970s and the 1980s. Rest assured that I will not bore my teenagers and young adults, for whom these times are supposedly prehistoric, with those memories.

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However, in order to see and try to understand Cuba properly, one must mention the socialism that still prevails among the inhabitants of this island country. You can see it at first glance: run-down buildings, poverty, stench, filth and deprivation, and the Cuban people are sad, which is no surprise to me.

Of course, the natives, in conversations with foreigners, praise Fidel, Che Guevara and the wonderful revolution that “liberated” the Cuban people from the yoke of the American and “Western” countries. This revolution gave them everything, excellent health, abolished illiteracy, etc. etc.

What is the truth? Cubans live on ration cards, they can buy rice, flour or half a chicken a month in special shops. They are not allowed to raise (own) cows or cattle. Only special farms under the watchful eye of the state breed such cattle and put them away. This is strictly regulated. Control of the Internet, control of written and spoken word, and television. Fuel is only available by ration card and with limits. A good salary is 35 euros per month.

It wasn’t short…

This is the country I decided to visit. I persuaded Robert, my diving friend, for us to go there together. I have been trying to organise my own escapades for years. This time, unfortunately, we went with one of the diving centres, which, to say the least, turned out to be not a very good idea.

The first problem arose 3 days before departure, because we received our electronic tickets, from which it appeared that (attention!) we have to get to Berlin, then we fly to Moscow, here we “rest” 11 and a half hours (!) to fly to Havana. So the journey from Poznan to Havana took over 35 hours. Attention – one way!

In any case, if you are going to visit Castro, choose a trip via Paris or Amsterdam. You will save half a day at the minimum and the same on your return.

Cuban airport…

When we finally arrived, tired, sweaty and not very cheerful, we were crowded into a lobby where the air conditioning was not working. We were lined up at several check-in desks. More and more people were arriving, it was getting cramped, and officers were walking around the crowd, keeping an eye on the people. Sometimes they would pick someone out and escort them to the side, for no apparent reason. This went on for over 40 minutes. It became very uncomfortable. Finally they took pity and started to check in.

When we arrived at the baggage claim area with a hint of hope, the spell quickly fizzled out. We spent another 2 hours waiting for our bags. Finally, after one more check, we got out. It turned out that in Cuba you cannot pay with any other currency than their special (according to them, exchangeable – but only in Cuba!) peso. Not believing the official persuasion and having our own experience, we exchanged only a small part of cash. ATMs are generally worth forgetting about. I saw one in Havana, but it did not work. There are no ATMs in other towns, resorts, etc.

We arrived around midnight and before picking up our room key we ordered our first drinks a’la Cubana. They tasted delicious.

Crocodile farm

The next evening we arrived at our first longer dive stop. On the way we visited a crocodile farm. Tiny, but the crocodiles were there, and a nearby bar served grilled crocodile meat. The three of us, along with Dominic we met, ordered 3 portions. Meat and a vegetable salad based on tomatoes and cucumbers. Quite tasty white meat. The Cuban guide told us not to order anything because there was no time, and there would be an opportunity to come here again later on an optional tour. It is good that we did as we did, because there was no more such a chance, and if it appeared, it would be at an additional cost.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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