Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Hills Have Eyes into the Soul of Cuba

Cuba is a magnificent place, now more than 50 years beyond The Revolution and currently in the throes of an evolution.  While fascinating, visiting Cuba has also left me feeling dejected – feeling that somehow I’ve been duped by my very own government and by the U.S. media. Perhaps it is my own fault for having only scratched the surface of knowledge about Cuba until now, and perhaps there is still more to explore about true U.S. motivations regarding Cuba.

Because Cuba is a socialist country, unlike the democratic one I am most accustomed to, I found myself curiously questioning every little thing, acting like a child learning new sights, learning a new language, and learning new rules and ways to do things. While I found enlightening answers through the expert lecturers, professors, tour guides, and new Cuban colleagues and friends I met on my visit, somehow the country still eludes the definitive nature of my consciousness. Answers only brought more questions. Maybe it is actually all quite simple, similar to what I found perched on the mountaintop in Viñales, which has remained a prominent memory of my trip – a house and a lizard.

All week these two objects have stuck in my mind as magnificent and symbolic of Cuba’s struggle, strength, and beauty.

A family used to live in this house, literally on a mountain, and farm on the very steep hillside. The trek and climb to get to this point was intense, and I was astonished and awe-struck when the house appeared after our treacherous journey. As serene as the weather was on this day, apparently the impact of storms and hurricanes is twice as worse when you live on a mountain, and it was that very thing that forced the family who used to live here to move inland. But because the government owns the land, there is no real estate market for selling the property and so instead it sits empty until the government passes it along to someone else. Trouble is, Cubans are highly educated and so the younger generation isn't interested in the hard life of farming, let alone living on a mountain to do so. As beautiful as this scenery was, I can't say I blame them.

On one of the rocks in front of the house, I spotted this curly-tailed lizard whose speckled stripes and shadow reminded me of the duality of Cuba. People unfamiliar with Cuba may see it as a little country with a dark past, but once they see Cuba in the light and not in the shadows cast upon it by those with disdain, it becomes impossible to miss its rich beautiful splendor and powerful determination to thrive and succeed. And by the way, check out those claws! I say make friends, not foes. 

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