CUBA, target of state terrorism of the USA 

My wife and myself had the great pleasure recently to had been invited to Cuba for a couple of weeks. I accepted the invitation with hesitation: I do not like to get anything that is impossible to reciprocate. This was definitely a typical case of getting a tremendous gift that one never can compensate.

Two weeks is a very long time if you look at it from this point of view, but nothing in case your curiosity is on high level. My intention was - as always is - to guess, how people in the given country live. I am afraid this time I was unable to feel the pulse of the nation. I warn you that whatever I write here I write with doubts, do not take anything for granted.

Every theme I start with a quotation, taken from an excellent travel guide*. Then I am trying to express how I feel about it, what were my personal impressions. Let us start:


"First inhabited in Pre-Columbian times, Cuba was later conquered by the Spanish, who ruled here for four centuries. The island gained independence in 1899, only to come under the virtual control of the US, with the help of dictators Machado and Batista. The Revolution headed by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, who defeated Batista on 1 January 1959, was a turning point for the country. The new political systam achieved major social results and Cuba is now finally emerging from decades of isolation." (p. 39) A few points that struck me:

Aboriginal Indians

Cuba is said to be the only country where Indians have been annihilated completely, no trace of them remained. The only case when they tried to stop the cruel killings ended in burning the chieftain Hatuey at the stake (1512). (Remarkable coincidence: the Hungarian chief of a peasant rebellion was burnt on a red-hot throne in 1514!). There is a place called Indian village, huts, statuettes portraying Indians, a tent, in which young girls invite you to make a few dancing steps: if you like a pleasant walk in beautiful suroundings, go there, if not, don't. Just memorize the name of the brutal aggressor: Diego Velázquez.


The lack of cheap labor "forced" the Spanish occupants to import it. They brought them from western Africa in their greatest numbers from the late 18th to the early 19th century, altogether around one million men and women. By 1830 they made up more than half of the population of Cuba.The country was the last American colony in freeing the slaves (1886). Thanks to the black labourers the Cuban sugar industry occupied the first place in the world in 1830.


The revolutionary movement - that started in the 18th century as the rise of the Creole aristocracy and intellectuals for Cuban natioanal identity - for the independence from Spain took serious forms in 1868 with a war that the Cubans won. The declared independence did not last long: the Spanish came back with avengeance. The success was secured only after José Martí - then in exile - established the Partido Revolucionario Cubano, which was able to unite the forces in favour of independence. The war was renewed in 1895 and it was close to a victorious end around the beginning of 1998 when the US sent a battlecruiser, the Maine on the 15th of February to Havana "to protect US citizens and property". The ship soon and misteriously exploded (!?), causing the death of 250 marines. The US blamed Spain for the loss of the ship, intervened in the war, defeated the Spanish fleet on the 3rd of July, swept aside Cubans and signed the Treaty of Paris with Spain on the 10th of December, ending the Spanish rule in America. The keys of Havana were handed over by the last Spanish governor, Jímenez y Castellanos to US general John Brooke. (We call it: "Out of the bucket into the pail" or as the English express it: "Out of the frying-pan into the fire."  At any case, it was probably the beginning of the "new world order")

Uncle Sam was nice enough to let the Cubans play their games of an independent country:Cuban constitution and president in 1901, but Platt Amendment, securing full control to the US in the same year, including naval bases, formal independence granted in 1902, but  (I quote the guide) "in the years that followed American involvement in the local economy increased and, on the pretext of safeguarding their citizens and investments, the US sent marines to the island on many occasions".

Dictator after dictator

The following close to 60 years were the years of American domination. Absolutely open backing of dictators by the US, ruthless repression of every movement aimed at democratic changes, at betterment of living conditions of the population. One of the worst scenarios of Latin-American type of repression. The peak probably was the coup staged by Batista on the 10th of March (shame: my birthday!) 1952, when the popular Orthodox Party, combining the progressive forces of the middle class was about to win the general elections that were to take place a few month later. " Batista's government, having the official support of the US abandoned its initial populist stance and became an out-and-out, violent dictatorship indifferent to the needs of the Cuban people. In fact, vast areas of land were sold to American and British firms and the money was pocketed. ... Cuba was becoming a 'pleasure island' which held an overpowering fascination, especially for Americans. ... By the 1950s Cuba was famous for glamour - its music and cocktails, its splendid prostitutes, cigars, drinking and gambling, and the sensual tropical life attracted mafiosi and film stars, tourists and businessmen, in equal measure. However there was a high price to pay: Cuba had not only become a land of casinos and drugs, it had also fallen into the hands of the American underworld, which ran the local gambling houses and luxury hotels, used for money laundering" - this is how the situation is described by our guide.

Why do I spend so much time on the history of Cuba? I hope you'll understand soon.

Habana Vieja The Old Havana

54. Atrium of the Museo de Arte Colonial

44. Plaza de la Catedral - Museo de Alfabetización

45. Plaza de la Catedral - Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras

46. Plaza de la Catedral 

49. Cab-rank

47. A gate of  Palacio de los Marqueses de Arcos

51. At the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

50. Seminario de San Carlos y San Ambrosio

53. Heroes and heroines of Cuba

52. Calle Obispo

48. The Old Lady and her Window

43. La Bodeguita del Medio

40. Castillo de la Real Fuerza

42. Flea-market


41. Destruction

Centro Habana y Prado


The Centre of the city and Prado The Cuban Revolution

I am going to make an almost imposible attempt to condense the facts in a few sentences and dwell more on lessons I drew from the happenings.

The facts: After Batista's coup Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, a young student leader who associated himself with the Orthodox Party (!) denounced the illegitimacy of the new government to the magistracy, without effect. Having learnt that legal means do not work, he organised the first armed raid, attempting to capture the Moncada barracks at Santiago in 1953. He was sentenced, jailed, then freed thanks to an amnesty, went into exile in Mexico, where he met Ernesto Che Guevara, an Argentine doctor. The two set to organize armed revolutionary forces for the liberation of Cuba from dictatory rule. On the 2nd of December 1956 Fidel left for Cuba on the yacht Granma with Che and 81 other rebells. They made a navigational mistake and ran into the arms of Batista's troops. Only a few of them escaped (those who were caught were killed on the spot), but they succeeded in organizing guerilla war from the Sierra Maestra mountains. It took just two years for them - helped by growing poverty, increasing corruption and repression - to gain enough strength to step out of the hide-out and launch their victorious war. Two columns left the mountains, one led by Che and Cienfuegos to the west, another by Raul Castro to Guantánamo. When Che conquered Santa Clara at the end of December 1958, Batista escaped. The victory was declared on the 1st of January 1959, Che and Cienfuegos entered Havana, Fidel marched in Santiago de Cuba on the same day. Fidel entered Havana on the 8th of January and was elected prime minister on the16th of February. Cuba was freed from tyranny.

It is important to note that this revolution was born in Cuba, lead by Cubans, that it was not backed by any outside force, power or movement. It gives the revolution tremendous force, unquestionable legitimacy.

44 years of "continuous revolution": a story of grave mistakes and huge achievements. What will be the final result: collapse or victorious survival? This is the question of the day in Cuba.

The first good steps: The revolutionary government - as soon as established itself - abolished all types of discrimination. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the step in a country, where 2/3 of the population was (and is) coloured, whose grand-grandparents were slaves, whose grandparents and parents were despised nobodies. This must be one of the reasons the communist dictatorship survives the tremendous difficulties. Another important step was the war against illiteracy, launched in 1961. The way it was done was a typical socialist campaign: students travelling and teaching, armymen learning in classes and so on, but they succeeded to sweep out this illness of the poor very soon. Great thing.

Fidel and his government had much more difficult tasks to solve. They realised - though none of them was familiar with questions of economic development - that the problem No1 is the one-sided economy, based entirely on agriculture and that even both the (ownership) structure and that it is based on two produce, sugar-cane and tobacco are brakes on the quick development of the country. They also understood that human standards are to be secured for the whole population: it is a must to improve the living conditions, education and health-care.

And this was the moment - as I see it - when Fidel made the first naive mistake that put him on rails that defined his faith. He touched American property. I, with my experience of 68 years believe he was absolutely right: the land of Cubans was sold (see above) to Americans using domination and cheating. He had the right to take that land back. His naivity was that he has not counted with the absolute power of the US and with the absolute power of capital in the US.

The revenge came in no time: (1) an attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles, trained in the USA by the CIA and openly backed by the USA. The attempt was smashed in three days by the Cuban army (the expectation of the invaders was that Cubans would join the group that landed at Playa Girón on the 17 April 1961) and (2) embargo  declared by the USA eight days later (!) on the export of sugar and import of oil. A killing blow to the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people!

This explains (for me at least) that Fidel did not have other choice than to establish close ties with the Soviet Union and the whole socialist block, who were ready to purchase sugar from and sell oil to Cuba (I do not know if the propaganda assertion that the sale prices of sugar were higher and the purchase prices of oil lower than the prevailing international market prices was true or not?). This was an absolutely unavoidable decision.

This right step was followed by a line of unpardonable rude mistakes, that resulted in the present impoverished state of the country. Let us count the most important ones: (1) the conversion of Cuba into a missile and spy base of the Soviet Union, (2) the introduction of one-party (communist) rule, (3) the introduction of personal dictatorship (political and military) and (4) their theory that revolution, liberation from dictatorships, from capitalist rule can be exported. I am not brave enough to go into deep analysis of the question: why? I have only superficial information.But let us see, what were the consequences of these mistakes?

xxx Interruption xxx

I have just seen the film "Buena Vista Social Club". Two months after I returned from Cuba. Mistake, no doubt, serious mistake! I should have seen it before leaving for Cuba. The film gives an insight not only into the fantastic music of the Cuban nation and not only into the present state of life in (mainly) Havana, but also into the attitude of Cubans - at least of the famous musicians - towards the present difficulties and - most important - towards life in general. Great! Really great: great personalities representing a great nation.

Two sentences in the film that one should never forget: 

(1) The photographer shows his picture of Fidel and Che playing golf. Someone present asks the question: who has won? Fidel - is the answer - and then the artist adds with a smile: Che has let him win. (I shall revert to this sentence.)

(2) I think Ferrer has said: "We have to thank that somebody up there that we are like we are, if we were worldly minded we would have disappeared long ago." Great soul.


Without trying to be too clever, I shall make an attempt to dwell on the above mentioned four grave mistakes. (ad 1.) The reasons Fidel and his companions decided to let the Soviets to convert the country into rocket-launching pad and a terrain for the probably most centralised electronic spy system in the world must have been twofold: the hatred against the USA that dominated, ruled, exploited Cuba through dictators for around 60 years and their naive belief that the communist block is as strong, as the western one, capable to triumph over capitalism, annihilate the danger of an invasion from the USA (it is ridiculous that the Hungarian uprising of 1956 was not enough warning for them). This decision proved to be disastrous twice in the history of Cuba: first, when the USA staged killing blockade, (rightly from the point of view of national security) demanding the withdrawal of the startegic rockets and intensifying the embargo afterwards and again in 1990-1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, withrew everything from Cuba and stopped all assistance. Cuba suddenly found itself in absolutely hopeless situation. The right and unavoidable acceptance of assistance from the Soviet block should not have led to this mistake! 


1. The reconstructed Hotel Sevilla

29.  In front of Gran Teatro

4. Capitolio

10.  Parque Central - Weekend Chatting

11. Parque Central with José Martí and Palcio del Centro Asturiano

3. Capitolio, detail

5. Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta

9. Malecón

7. Gran Teatro & Hotel Ingleterra

15. Teatro....was (behind Gran Teatro)

2. A camello (camel) bus & crowd

8. Gran Teatro, detail

13. Prado

14. Queuing for shopping or exam

12. Plaza del Cristo del Buen Viaje

16. Unbelievable destruction (1)


18.Avenida de Italia (or it was)

17. Unbelievable destruction (2)

6. Destruction & destruction


39. Calle Empedrado

                                                                                                                                                          ad 2.)  I confess I do not know anything about and do not understand Fidel's conviction that led the Cuban revolutionaries to shift to the one-party system. History did not teach them that this was never a successful and lasting mode of governing a nation. They had the awful experience to live under dictatorship (formally even not one-party!). Probably some pressure from the Soviets forced them to accept this never-working-for-long system? The result was (must have been): growing internal resistance, growing international isolation, growing pressure both in form of military threat and not decreasing embargo. (ad 3.)  Fidel rapidly converted himself into dictator. History has experienced this scenario in more cases than not. This is definitely a question that should be studied by psychiatrists, philosofers, politologist: what does convert supposedly honest top leaders into blind dictators? We know well that (a law of a wise man) "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". There were at least two early signs that Fidel was pushing aside his best companions. Che left the country, declaring that he had to continue his war against exploitation, for liberation of peoples. This was probably a real reason. But remember: Che was the first to enter Havana as liberator (blow to the prestige of Fidel) and the opinion of the above mentioned photographer: Che let Fidel to win. Che still seems to be better loved in Cuba, than Fidel. The other sign was that Camilo Cienfuegos, one of Fidel's closest companions, a legendary hero of the revolution disappeared, flying in a small plane over Cuba. A question mark since then. Fidel must believe he is the best. Fidel, you may be best only if you surround yourself with better people than you are! The results are the same as described in para 3. (ad 4.) Definitely one of the worst ideas of the Cuban leaders was the export of revolution. Cuba extended helping hand not only by financing guerilla organisations in quite a number of Latin-American and African countries, but time-to-time participated in their wars against dictators both delivering weapons and sending troops. In principle with good intentions, following revolutionary ideas, but it badly affected the economy of the country and the image of it in the eyes of those developed nations who maintained embargo against it. Pity.

In spite of the mistakes there were remarkable good decisions as well. Cuba spent a lot of efforts in developing two basic areas: health-managenent and education. But - because of the embargo, the efforts to export revolution - the country suffered from permanent shortage of finances, could not develop or even maintain its wealth. The best example of the destruction is Havana. I shall return to this later.

The fact that Cuba lost its friends with the collapse of the communist block, Fidel had to change his mind from a lot of points of view, both positive and negative. Negative: they had to introduce hard austerity measures, called "Período Especial". Lack of fuel (they imported 1 million bikes from China), severe cut in imports, shortage of electricity and water, paralysed transport, food rations and cut in wages (almost like post-war Hungary). Positive: Fidel had to realise that at least some democratic steps are to be done, that the economy badly needs foreign capital, foreign investment, at least on low level private economic initiative is to be encouraged. US dollar was legalized. He has visited developed countries of Europe, the Pope, who returned this visit in 1998. There are now close to 400 joint ventures in Cuba, the tourist industry is flourishing, securing No1 income for the country, the isolation of Cuba is almost over. It is clear that the great role of dollar in the economy already causes serious social tension: the population is divided into those who obtain $ (can maintain better life) and who do not (live in absolute poverty).

This is where Cuba stands now. Almost everyone believes the death of Fidel is not far. Some are afraid. A lady asked a friend of mine: "We have not left Cuba, will we suffer because of it, if the rich Cubans return?" Others expect quick changes, democratic reforms, freedom, better life. One thing is clear for me: if the changes come in the form of neocapitalism of the ex-communist block, most of Cubans will cry for help, if not for weapons.

The land

My system cannot be applied to the further descriptions of the country, the quotations would occupy more than my own experience. Therefore I shall write about my "straight" observations.

Cuba is beautiful. It is green. Its sand on the shores is sparkling white. Most of the land is hilly. When I first arrived to India, I expected dense forests, which are rare there. My impression in Cuba was different: you feel as if you were always surrounded with trees, not necessarily with dense vegetation, but greenery and greenery. The trees are mostly tropical. Palms, but you can also see pine in the mountains. There are hardwoods as well: mahagony, cedar and majagua. On the slopes you can see coffee and cocoa plantations. Mangoes and citrus fruit grow as well. And a  lot of flowers. You feel yourself quite often in a garden with hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids. Mariposa is the national flower. The main plants on the plains are sugar cane and tobacco. Both well maintained, the plantations look beautiful. 

The sea is just fantastic: from deep blue to light green, at places you can see coral reefs. The southern shores are often littered with lagoons and marshlands, decorated by mangrove swamps. The seaside is rich in birdlife. Cuba is said to be one of the paradises for divers. The coral formations are never deeper than 150 m and the temperature of the water is never less than 18 deg. C !

The Valle de Vinales (Vinales Valley) is famous because of unique hill-structures, called mogote, limestone rocks, remnants of once a limestone plateau, that eroded and collapsed. 

I am going to describe in more details only those places where I could spend some time during the two weeks of my staying in Cuba.


(My father would be 100 years old today!)

The first place you meet when you arrive to a country is the airport. The airport of Havana was the first pleasant surprise for me. I have traveled quite a lot during my hectic life and most of the airports of countries known as "poor", "underdeveloped" , "not rich"  were simple buildings, smelling, dirty. Cuba also belongs to this group of countries, but the airport of Havana proved to be modern, absolutely clean, spacious. The passport and customs procedures were not very rapid, but better and much more polite than in most of the countries mentioned above (not talking about the horrors of the ex-communist block). I fetched a sight of relief. I learnt later the the airport was built by Canadians - who never strained they relations with Cuba - in 1998.


We spent our first four days in Havana. The first impressions were a mixture of nice and bad ones. Our hosts recommended to start with "Habana Vieja", Old Havana, the historic heart of the capital, which was declared part of the "cultural heritage of humanity" by UNESCO in 1982. But driving towards it we passed through Malecón, the "Marine Drive" of Havana (it reminded us the very similar beach-drive of Bombay, called Marine Drive) and the sight of it was simply shocking: it looks like a city after not very heavy bombing, but bombing. Buildings in ruins, some already collapsed, some about to go down, some underpinned, the facades of all of them falling apart. Awful! The old district looks much better. "After two centuries of neglect" - says our guide - the restoration makes wonders. What exactly the guide means is a question mark for me, since the city has lived throbbing life in the first half of this century. 


Habana Diverse

22. Buffet on the street

25. Girls in colonial costumes

27. Hansom-cab

28. Iglesia ...

30. Necrópolis Colón 

31. Necrópolis Colón, La Milagrosa

20. A wall in the sanctuary of Santería

21. Atelier of painter Salvador in the Santería sanctuary

33. Religious sculpture at Santerías

26."Hanging garden"

23. Club 

24. Club, the art of making roof

32. Pupils in a Chinese restaurant

38. Tribuna Abierta de la Revolución

34. Shopping City ($)

35. Shopping for Peso

37. Taxi station at Gran Teatro

36. Still moving

55. Vedado y Plaza 

56. Typical house in an offices-residences area



Not only historical monuments wake up from deep sleep, but hotels, restaurants, "bodeguitas", shops and simple houses as well. The new look is so nice, that I feel important to mention the name of the person, who directs the reconstruction: Eusebio Leal Spengler. The whole "Plaza de la Catedral" is a wonder: the "Catedral de San Cristóbal" with its baroque facade is said to be one of the bests in the Americas, "Palacio de los Marqueses" and "Palacio del Conde Lombillo" occupy one of the sides of the Plaza (square), the "Museo de Arte Colonial" on the opposite to the cathedral side is unique with its simplicity and has a wonderful atrium. The fourth side of the square is occupied by "Palacio de los Marqueses de Aguas Claras" with a good restaurant. Cuban band invites you to combine pleasure of eating and listening to lovely music. Most of the streets leading to the square are at least partly reconstructed and the picture must be changing day by day: feverish building activities dominate the scene. One of the best examples of excellent restoration of hotels is Hotel Santa Isabel. One of the most beautiful streets is "Calle Obispo", decorated by attracting hotels, historic shops and groceries. You just make a few steps from this fantastic square and you find other interesting buildings, places: "Seminario de San Carlos y San Ambrosio", reminding you the cathedral, "Bodeguita del Medio" (little shop in the middle), a meeting place of intellectuals, artists, a combination of a restaurant and a busy bar. There are two markets worthwile to visit. In "Plaza de Armas" you find the market of second hand books and periodicals, which must be a treasure of  books that any collector would be happy to obtain. Next to the "San Carlo y Ambrosio Seminary" and behind the Castillo (an intresting fortification) is the tourist handicrafts market. Some of the products are unique, like musical instruments, African-style wooden figures, black coral rings, necklaces, papier máché masks, seed and shell necklaces. I called it flea-market as we call similar markets in Hungary. I also advise you to tour "Calle Oficios", where you find three interesting places: the "Museo Numismático", the "Casa de Los Arabes" and the "Museo del Auto Antiguo".

I took a deep breath and sank into the old and the central  parts of the city, taking two strolls, one in Vieja and another in "Centro" . 

Though I used only a small card-map and my nose for making itinerary for Vieja, I believe my selection was not bad. I put it down here, you can use it for yourself if you are brave enough to walk in a city, parts of which are in ruins and the poverty is striking. Do not be afraid anyway, Cubans are very kind. So, my route was: Plaza de la Catedral - Empedrado - Monseratte - Refugio - Zulueta - Trocadero - Paseo de Prado - Dragones - Bernaza - Plaza del Cristo del Buen Viaje - Villegas - Calle Obispo. The differences between parts of the route are unbelievable. Buildings of fantastic beauty completely restored groups of houses at the first steps, the exciting, famous "Bodeguita del Medio", the meeting place of intellectuals, artists and politicians, then ruins, then more or less well maintained parts of streets, museums, then again houses at the edge of collapse, pulled down blinds of non-existing shops, or primitive workshops behind half-open shutters, then the splendid mudéjar (Moorish) Hotel Sevilla in a row of buildings just being restored! I was really shocked at this stage: what a wonderful city Havana must have been! I opened my eyes even wider when I reached Prado, which definitely must have been one of the most beautiful avenues of the world! Short lines of houses are restored, marble benches, not properly handled, statues of bronze lions in good state, pavements still showing the signs of elegance... Prado exists since 1772, got its final design in 1927 and though it is in a state of coma, you cannot hide your pleasant surprise at the rich, spectacular sight. After having left Prado I went through streets and squares of destruction until I reached Calle Obispo, an almost completely restored long street with wonderful buildings, a couple of excellent hotels and restaurants, plenty of exciting shops. Do not miss this beauty.

In the "downtown" (Centro Habana y Prado) I also found beautiful buildings, parks and a couple of streets that are either reconstucted or well-preserved, as the Capitolio, the Gran Teatro, the Parque Central, a few buildings of Prado, the once elegant alley in marble, the Hotel Sevilla, where Hemingway used to stay and write until he purchased a villa some 35 kms from Havana, But most of the buildings are in shocking state, like the ones on Malecón. It is almost unbelievable how socialism could create similar devastating scenes in such far-apart countries like Cuba, Russia or Hungary. Cuba is somehow the worst of them, since it has not suffered awful damages from WWII, as the Russians and we had, what you see there is just the result of political and economic mismanagement.

I started the second walk - across the central part of Havana - at Capitolio. I did not have time to go in (it is open only for tours), therefore cannot describe the interior, which is said to be wonderful. The Statue  of the Republic is especially famous both for its measurements (17 m high and weighs 49 tons) and  because it is covered by 22-carat gold. The building is an imitation of the Capitol of Washington. Since its inauguration in 1929 until the 50s the dome of the Capitolio (92 m) was the highest point of the capital. Very impressive. You may also present yourself with a photo taken on the stairs of it by camera as ancient as the building itself. 

My next step was the Gran Teatro, which is one of the world's largest opera houses. We had enjoyed a ballet performance before my visit, which was excellent, proving that the Cuban ballet (Ballet Nacional de Cuba, which is celebrating the 55. year of its existence) is truly one of the bests. Now I could study the building as well and I found it on the level of the artists. Designed by a Belgian, decorated with Italian sculpture groups, (inaugurated in 1915) the building is fabulous.


57. Brisas, the logo of our hotel

67. View to the right from our room

66. View to the left from our room

63. The garden of our hotel

65. The view of our hotel from the shore

64. The "Indian" market 

62. The $-market

61. The $-market, a band

58. Morning in our hotel

59. Our hotel from the pool

60. Pool and bar in our hotel

Just a few steps from the theatre (next corner) you find Hotel Inglaterra. The name is British, but the building is definitely Spanish (Neo-Classical, with Moorish soul -  as our guide puts it). It is worth-while to stop and have a look at it. This is also where Prado begins, but I did not go there, went back to the corner of Gran Teatro, made a turn to Calle San Martín (known also as San José - be careful, "old" and new names are used with equal force) and found next corner the ruins of an old theatre. Awful sight: trees are growing on the top of it. And it continued like this during my walk through this part of the city: a couple of nice, but mostly practically not maintained buildings, followed by houses about to collapse and ruins. My route was:Calle Industria (made a mistake not to visit the Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás, a nice and famous factory of cigars in the middle of the downtown), Calle Barcelona, Avenida de Italia (Galiano), Avenida Simón Bolivar (Reina) and Avenida Salvador Allende (Carlos III). I saw some interesting buildings, like Iglesia del Ángel Custodio, a modern shopping centre with acceptable selection of goods sold for USD, an absolutely poor peso-shop, and also very nice children queueing for something and smaller girls eating in a Chinese restaurant. 

A religious sanctuary of santéria (regla de Ocha), Callejon de Hammel deserves special place in my diary. Frankly speaking I could not catch the details of what should be known about this blended religion, a result of "marriage" of Catholicism and the ancient believes of slaves, imported from Africa. "in order to be able to worshiptheir gods despite the persecution of the Spaniards, Yoruba slaves, originally from Nigeria, merged their gods' identities with certain Catholic saints. The sanctuary is colourful and seems to be primitive to our eyes. A two hundred meters long wall dominates the scene,bearing the mural of a naive painter Salvador González. There are small shops, an altar made of metallic construction-elements, symbols and images of African gods and Abakuá devils.

Vedado and Plaza is also treated as a weel-defined entity of the city. We could not spend time on thorough study of this part, therefore I mention only three places that a traveler should not miss.

One of them is the Memorial José Martí, erected to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth. The construction started in 1953 and was completed in 1959, in the year of the victory of the revolution of Fidel. It is impressive, modern, the tower 139 m high, the statue of the hero 18 m. Have a look at it.

We spent a pleasant evening  in Hotel Nacional. I am unable to find now details about the building, it reminds me the "socreal" architecture: a huge cube-shaped something with two towers, a few steps from the sea. Our intention was to listen to a good Cuban band. The band came and played on order enjoyable music . It was OK, but I never liked ordering music, the feeling of commercialisation disturbes me. It struck me that one member of the band, a young lady played flute, unusual instrument in folk bands. She was good and her instrument did not hang separately in the air. But the best of the evening was the cocktail I drank!

I was told by friends before leaving for Cuba that I should not miss the cemetery. They were right: Necrópolis Colón, one of the largest cemeteries in the world proved to be extremely interesting. It occupies huge territory, 55 ha contains around two million graves. The important point is, that a lot of the sculptures and monuments are real pieces of art, art of very different styles, from eclectic to contamporary, some of them famous, like "La Milagrosa". This monument represents a mother who died in childbirth along her daughter. She was buried together with her child and found intact a few years leter. Her husband visited  the tomb every day and never turned his back to it. The story sounds like a wonderful folk-tale and the tomb became a pilgrimage site. Do not forget to visit the place!

If you spend more than just a few days in Havana, take the trouble to enjoy the pleasures of the Club of Havana at the seaside with a lot of amenities, including diving. The tempreture of the sea was 26 deg. C in February. The place is excellent, see my photos.

Before saying good-bye to Havana I just mention a few spots that I have seen on my strolls and  advise to visit. My remarks will be short (if any): Hotel Santa Isabel, Hotel Ambos Mundos, Hotel Florida, Hostal Valencia, the Taquechel pharmacy, Casa de la Obra Pía, Plaza Vieja, Palacio del Centro Asturiano, the Fuente de la India, Museo de la Revolución, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.


Varadero is one of the most popular resorts in the Carribean. Rightly so: the sea is warm and absolutely clean, not spoiled yet, the sand white and silky, you can get full-service, free admission to the restaurants, bars, the hotels have sweetwater pools, tennis courts, the services include sailing, surfing, whatever you like. You can judge about the beauty of the place if you cast a glance on my photos. 

Valle de Vinales

We spent a full day and two nights in Hotel La Ermita, just above a small city,Vinales, on the top of a hill in the area of mogotes in Western Cuba. We just crossed on the way the "provincial capital", Pinar del Río , which is said to be worthwhile to stop at, because the Colonial atmosphere of it is unchanged and a lot of buildings are richly decorated by columns.Before reaching Vinales we stopped at a nice hotel, Los Jazmines, for the view of the land of mogotes is probably the best from there (see photo No 79). Vinales proved to be a small city with garden-houses and a very rich private (!) botanical garden, definitely an interesting spot. We stayed at Hotel La Ermita, an almost bungalow-type airy, splendid place. Two places could be visited during our short staying: a cave, the hiding place of slaves who escaped from their slave-holders and the Muralde la Prehistoria , an unusual and strange mural, trying to depict the history of evolution. It is not very polite, probably, but I found the restaurant in front of the mural more exciting. Especially the cocktail, consumed there. One of the centres of the Santéria belief in combination with a restaurant could also be seen next to the cave.

Western Cuba

78. Rio Canimar - The Bacunayagua bridge & port

76. Rio Canimar - Our band on the ship

77. Rio Canimar - Row of palms at a farm

19. Crocodile farm

68. Waterfall & resting place

71.  Hotel Los Jasmines


79. The land of mogotes

72. Hotel Horizontes, La Ermita (1)

73.Hotel Horizontes, La Ermita (2)

74. Hotel Horizontes, La Ermita (3)

75.Hotel Horizontes, La Ermita (4)

69. A mogote (2)

70. A mogote

80.View of Vinales

Slogan at the crocodile farm

Finca la Vigía, the villa of Hemingway

Definitely unforgettable was our visit to the place, where Hemingway had spent most of his time in Cuba and where his best books had been written. Everything speaks of his easygoing, adventuresome nature, probably the main reason he fall in love with Cuba at the first sight. There are 8000 books in the house, a lot of bottles of spirits (he was quite heavy drinker), trophies of African safaris, pieces of artworks. He used to type his novels standing, using a small typewriter. His famous boat, Pilar is also exhibited in the garden, the boat which was used for marlin fishing and the captain of which was Gregorio Fuentes, the old man of "The old man and the sea". 

A group of pupils in uniform, pioneers, were playing in the garden and I was struck to see the toy of my childhood in the hands of Cuban boys: the spinning top. One of the boys was a real expert, an artist of the game, could force the toy to jump up on the palm of his hand, spinning there. Unbeatable champion! I liked him.

The crocodile farm and the Indian village

A combined trip took us to the crocodile farm and the Indian village. The crocodiles to me were of medium size but I would not like to fall pray to any of them. A not very "human" demonstration was going on when we arrived to the place, but it was laughingly stupid, that a communist slogan served as background to the scene.

We were then taken by boat to the marshland-island, where an imitation of the ones existing Indian village can be studied. It was a sad picture for me,reminded the complete annihilation of a nation and it was absolutely commercialized. The naturearound is beautiful, it compensates you for the not-so-exciting village.

The waterfall

Where was it, is it? Some 40 kms from Havana towards what? Varadero? Yes, I believe so. Nice place, a small restaurant, a small bridge, narrow lane, trees that close the heaven, some big stones and you are below a nice waterfall and at a miniature lake. Four-five ladies have just finished bathing in the cold water (22-23 deg. of C, awfully cold) and made the first steps towards us. They spoke English. American ladies living in Spain. The eldest of them asked us, what language do we speak? Ah, Hungarian, I supposed Finnish. (Not the first case, Finnish is close to Hungarian and better known, therefore Hungarian is often mistaken for Finnish). Somehow Iraq came up and they agreed, that the war would be a stupidity. A few minutes later I found them at a kind of ant's nest, searching for the insects with a stick. What is this? - asked me the curious lady. Insects - I replied - but you will be eaten up, if you disturb them, as it is with human beings. They were surprised, looked at me with wide eyes, then understood, what I meant and left in silence. The narrow stream, flowing from the lake serves as a resting place for people from Havana. Groups are bathing, making barbecue, eating, drinking, enjoying themselves as if they lived in a democratic country. Nice and sad.

Península de Zapata - Playa Girón

A place that is obligatory for official guests of the country. I mentioned above: it took just three days for the Cuban army to stop the invaders. Fidel personally headed the Cubans defending their freedom. A long road is leading to the gulf, memorials at frequent intervals of military who died there. A long cemetery. It is a nice place otherwise, but spoiled by sad memories.

Rió Canimar and a farm

This was a pleasant trip by an ancient ship (boat?) on Rió Canimar to a horse-breeding farm (and again a small holy place of santérias). The river was narrow with forests on both side and with a lot of birds. The farm was simple, but the mojito made there was better than those in Havana (with the exception of our host's mojito, the top one!) We had our own band on the ship. I was asked to handle the claves. I was not very good at this simple instrument (a pair of sticks).

Cayo Jutías

An island connected to the mainland by a road. Unspoiled nature, wonderful, absolutely clean water, divers (not very happy ones) and again a small, family-type restaurant. White sand, heat in February, sun, sun and sun, fishes, birds. Can you think of any better place on Earth?

A coffee plantation and the co-operative for tourism

I am sorry, but I completely forgot the name of these places. They are not far from Havana, in the direction of Vinales if I am not wrong. You are allowed in a forest through a barrier and the first place is the co-operative at a lake of a few hundred meters, having some bungalows, a central (office) building, boats, I do not know what. They live on what they earn, do not pay taxes, sounds like some kind of paradise. You drive a few kms more uphill and you find an ancient building, like a knights' hall, once the house of the owner of the plantation, now a tourist-centre cum restaurant. We had one of our best lunches there.


I have recently learnt that Fidel executed three opposition leaders and sentenced seventy-something others to rigorous imprisonment. I am shocked. Stupidity, barbarism, dictatory blindness have no bounds. Communism in Cuba is dead. Fidel has finished himself.

I am also surprised that Fidel let the USA to use its naval base as execution chamber of Afghan (and other) terrorists (?) 


My conclusions?

Cuba (still) - si! Cubans are nice, friendly, easygoing people, Cuban women are beautiful. I was surprised that the most graceful ones are black. Black is really beautiful. One of the symbols of Cuba should be the swing-chair, another the tumbadora (drum). They can enjoy life!

Cuban communism - no! The system does not work, at least not without foreign assistance. It causes tremendous sufferings to this poor people.

America - no! The American embargo is stupid, brutal, purposeless.

My story is not completed, let me think about the future of Cuba! I shall revert to this question.

Concluded in 2003, early summer


My final words

I am back, collected my brain. Here is my prediction: The Cuban communist system will collapse soon, before, around or immediately after the death of Fidel. The country will be pray to mainly two forces: the USA and Cuban emigrates, long waiting for the occasion. The economy will be "eaten up" by mainly foreign capital. Privatization will be the main weapon of  "liberation" of the country from socialist forms of maintaining it. The main targets will be the monocultures of Cuba: sugar, tobacco, etc. Oil will be one of the most important targets of American oil companies. Morsels will be "secured" for Cubans, returning from America, mostly in not important fields, like small enterprises, fruit growing and processing, fishing.

The level of living standard will go fast from this impossibly inhuman level. Prostitution and the entertainment industry will enjoy high priority, Cuba will return to the status of brothel for rich Americans. 

But the question will be open: how long Cubans will be ready to be slaves again, again the slaves of America? Nobody can predict that!



* DK - Eyewitness Travel Guides, Cuba, 2002 (the italics are mine)

Demonstration at the crocodile farm

Hemingway's guest-room

Hemingway's boat

Pioneers playing with spinning tops

I am obliged to add a few words! I just finished the wonderful book of Richard Gott 'Cuba, A New History' (Yale University Press, 2005) and have to correct a few mistakes in my above text. Gott is definitely more reliable historian than a travel guide.

The first mistake is that Indians have not been completely annihilated as stated in the chapter 'Aboriginal Indians'. According to detailed studies it was in the interest of the Spanish colonists to assert that no Indians remaind on the island: "...largly as a result of the efforts of Las Casas, Indians were placed under the protection of the Spanish Crown. Their lands and persons could not (legally) be touched by the colonists. As a result of this pro-Indian policy, it was in the interest of the settlers, always avaricious for land, to suggest that the Indians had all been killed off." (p. 23)

There is one more subject about which my opinion differs from that of Gott. I considered that Che left Cuba because he did not agree with the general policy-line of Fidel. Gott believes that all actions of Che outside Cuba as well were co-ordinated with Fidel and directed by him. I still have doubts, but... Gott knows Cuba much better then I do.