You can choose to be misinformed about Cuba by reading the farcical fantasies published in Babalu and other hard-line propaganda outlets, where every Cuban American traveler is a mula, every American a neocolonialist dolt looking for mulatas and mojitos or a leftist dupe and every Cuban a prostitute or a jinetero, ready to scam every last penny out of you, while the communist snitches watch your every move, ready to deport you or throw you in jail at whim.
Or you can read this harrowing, touching, beautifully written first-person account of his visits by John Jeremiah Sullivan in the New York Times Magazine. It’s one of the best articles ever written about what it’s like to visit a country so full of contradictions, so endearing and strange, so close and so far at the same time. Part travelogue, part memoir, part deft political analysis, whether it’s making the case for removing the embargo:
You can’t understand the transnationally dysfunctional, mutually implicated relationship between Cuba and Miami, that defies all embargoes and policies of “definitive abandonment,” until you realize that the line often cuts through families, almost always, in fact. People make all sorts of inner adjustments. I told the man I hated the embargo (the blockade, as they call it) and thought it was stupid, which was both true and what he wanted to hear. He gave me a manly clap-grasp. I didn’t go on and say, of course, that I disliked the embargo most because it, more than anything, has kept the Castros in power for half a century, given them a ready-made Goliath for their David. Thanks to the embargo, when the Castros rail against us as an imperialist enemy, they aren’t really lying. We have in effect declared ourselves the enemy of the Cuban people and done it under the banner of their freedom, hitting Cuba in a way that, after all, makes only the people suffer, and far from punishing those in power, rewards them and buttresses their story.
or succinctly refuting the myth that all interactions with Cubans are controlled by the state:
The things he said, which I had heard many times before — that you can go to prison for nothing, that there’s no opportunity, that people are terrified to speak out — are the reason I can never quite get with my leftie-most friends on Cuba, when they want to make excuses for the regime. It’s simply a fact that nearly every Cuban I’ve ever come to know beyond a passing acquaintance, everyone not involved with the party, will turn to you at some point and say something along the lines of, “It is a prison here.”
it’s a glorious read that will grip you from the first paragraph –and the first photo– and leave you at the end daydreaming of a trip to the island, to see with your own eyes, and have your own Cuban adventure of discovery.