Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A Few Thoughts About Cuba

I leave this trip from Cuba with more questions than answers. Everything I thought on my last trip remains true. It's a beautiful country with impressive architecture and rich culture. The people have a warm inner spirit that makes me keep wanting to go back.

On each trip, I scratch a little deeper and since I was there for an NYU grad school class this time, I really dug in. We met with experts who explained the challenges Cuba is currently facing with its economy. They spoke to us about their healthcare system, where they train doctors from around the world and also send 1000s of doctors to work in other countries.  We also learned about their rich creative community, housing policy, work dealing with issues related to race, sexuality and gender issues. We heard about how they are preserving their historical architecture and are trying to develop a tourism industry that benefits and doesn't displace locals.

I continue to admire some of the values of the Revolution and all the efforts to even the economic landscape for everyone, but feel frustrated that even with so many interventions inequality exists on many levels and tourism and the influx of money from it and other outside sources is reopening old scars.

As we get farther and farther from the Cold War and any real dream of a successful Communist society, the downsides outweigh the good so strongly that it’s almost hard to see any positive side.  Clearly the idea of a planned economy and much too much power centered with the state has not created a vibrant economy, and instead has stagnated all economic growth and local motivation within the community to work.  It also creates major inefficiencies. Even as the new economic reforms take effect and Cubans are allowed to start some small businesses, operate small farms, buy and sell houses and cars the government still has too much underlying control to give many people real chances to succeed.

Big dreams of free college educations and supplying basic food and housing to everyone are much too expensive to provide without a generous benefactor like the Russians.

The challenges of being a small post-colonial nation are so big and pragmatism seems to win over idealism in many ways. While I still believe Cuba is doing a better job serving its marginalized people than other countries in similar situations, I'm sad that it seems impossible to eradicate the base problems of inequality.  I am having a hard time imagining how an equal relationship with the US can ever evolve and don't want a post-Embargo world to swallow the country and erase all the good works they have achieved.

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