Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cuba: Now, Then, and Never

I just returned from Havana. It was my third trip. In Spanish, it's La Habana, which sounds smoother, nicer, and rings right to the vibe of the street and the night. Pico Iyer's "Havana Nights" didn't get it right. But his later works resound with literary wisdom and cool intellectualism. Havana continues to defy every one. defines you in incomprehensible ways. Even Hemingway, after many decades, was ousted. The place does that to you. It holds you close and then lets you go.

Cubans drift northward, crossing the puddle, El Charco. Legally or illegally. On the other side of the country, Mexico has it's own way of talking about El Norte, the north. You risk your life crossing La Frontera. For Cubans, the pass through the water world of the Gulf of Mexico to arrive on the Florida Keys, Miami, or the shores northward by Fort Myers and Sarasota. There's no press. No CNN Atlanta team picks up on this migration. Cuba is adrift. No one seems to care. Forgotten.

My first trip there was in 1998 where I spoke on sustainable medicine at an international economic conference. Who then was discussing the need for sanity in healthcare. There is no sustainable economy without a sustainable medicine. Without a form of healthcare that serves the people, that tend to the sick, ailing, and dying, there is no humane society, no enlightened culture, and no long term sustainability of any nation.

The integrative medicine miracle that Cuba so strongly embraced in the 90s is largely forgotten. Not altogether gone, just dissipated, in disrepair before it even became useful. The organic agriculture movement turned the island into a 100% organic nation, but the choices are limited, seasonally strapped, and commercially lacking in appeal. So what if they have non-genetically modified organically grown, seasonally ripe, tomatoes if they can't get them to market because there is no gasoline.

Some thing has to change. Or, does it? We advance, they go backward. The gap widens. The people become more desperate. Apathy marks the pathos. Even Son, Cuban salsa is hard to fine. There is no more music in the streets. It's hard scrabble morning to night.

If you look at my photos, it's simple, surreal and different from the US, so real, raw, amazing...and so close. When you there, among the people, in the street, out of the tourist hotels, away from government organized tours, you see, and hear, and smell the decay of buildings, or souls.

Around you, the sky is filled with thunder. Lightening is sharp and transparent bright white staccato moments break through the darkness. Rain pours down. Sun breaks through, hot and glistening. The old cars: Ford Farlanes, Buicks, and Chevys every where ply the streets. The women dance when they walk. The older people vibrant with life until their last breath.

Don't wait on the Cuban government to do a thing. If there is such a thing a moral imperative, it is the obligation of the US to make a show of political compassion and begin a gradual lifting of the economic embargo. The Cuban people has suffered enough. Cuba is not a threat to the US. It is not an enemy, and never was. And if governments wont' do any thing, then we the American people must. Ah...Cuba...may you live forever, and change soon with or without our help.