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As I drowsily gaze out the window of my minibus, a generous Cuban term for those 1950s wagon-style cars from early surfing films, I begin pondering an interesting phenomenon of Cuban culture. It can be described simply with one word: ‘fiel.’ Faithful. Faithful to our country, faithful to the Cuban people, faithful to Fidel, faithful to the revolution. You cannot walk past a single building in Cuba or more than two houses without seeing phrases like these painted artfully by the government. For some people, this brings a pride of nation, but for many others, this is a constant reminder of the limitations in place by a facade only representing what could have been.Cuban sentiments towards Cuba and the US faithful fidel Che Castro Guevara Cuban sentiments towards Cuba and the US faithful fidel Che Castro Guevara

And to be fair to the Cuban revolutionaries, Fidel included but Che not so much, the wonderful US of A, as it loves to do to nations that do not benefit it as much as it requires, seriously screwed Cuba. I refuse to romanticize much of Cuban history that is often romanticized. However, I also refuse to accept what I was taught in US public school about Cuban history as it related to the US as the whole story. There was one very important piece of the historical puzzle left out. Before reaching out to anyone else, once Fidel gained power, he went to the United States to build a stronger bond, and most importantly, to aid in the construction of a Cuban democracy. Yes, Fidel wanted the US as an ally and did not want communism, but democracy. But the US was not interested. When Fidel forced out all of the American mobsters running the Cuban hotels and casinos, a shady yet enormously profitable asset for the United States, this angered my home country. At the same time, exploiting its way through just about every other Latin American country, the land of the free and home of the brave saw little benefit. Desperation and with the urging of Ernesto (Ché) Guevara, Fidel had to turn to the only other world superpower for aid, the Soviet Union. The USSR gladly aided Cuba in exchange for a huge price, Communism and a hugely advantageous military base. It was then that things began to go downhill for Cuba. I had at least 50 conversations with different Cubans about the revolution. Most are very proud of Fidel, Ché, Cienfuegos, País and their guerrilla revolution. A woman in Bay of Pigs talked to me about how beautiful it was the morning that Fidel took power. She had never seen so much hope in her life, never felt so secure about the future. But sadly, that all would quickly change, no thanks to my own “patria.”

Cuban sentiments towards Cuba and the US faithful fidel Che Castro Guevara
“Long live a free Cuba. The US breaks their relationship with Cuba.”

You see, as my friends who risked jail time to drive me home from a beach in Havana explained to me, “communism looks great on paper, but add human nature into the mix and it is ‘jodido’. Not everyone that drives a Toyota does not dream of one day owning Mercedes.” I certainly agree. Communism on paper looks amazing. What could be better than true equality? But as is seen in the land of “e pluribus unum” the wealth gap is ever-increasing and the greedy right preach flawed economic theories to the poor in promise of salvation, only to make the rich richer. It is this disgusting and blatant greed, legal corruption as my many European friends would describe it, that makes me stir in my sleep every night, and the same that overcame the Cuban government. Cuban surgeons make $50 per month, whereas Cuban bartenders make that in a night. If you aren’t in government, working somewhere that serves generous tourists, or related to someone abroad, you are once again, jodido, as one Cuban friend told me while proudly showing me his family farm that was completely destroyed by hurricane Matthew. Old men on park benches are eager to tell me about the hope they have for democracy and the future, the same hope they have held for over 60 years. To continue the path that President Obama started is their plea. “When you go home, please go to president Trump and tell him that Cubans are good, hardworking people who want democracy too. We did not choose this system for ourselves but we need his help. Tell him there is money to be made here, that he will listen to.”

Cuban sentiments towards Cuba and the US faithful fidel Che Castro Guevara
A good friend who talked to me for hours about US Cuban relations on the beach. Laughing in the phot because he made fun of me for taking my first picture in Cuba with a fat guy!

It is these conversations that make me ponder “fiel.” You see, these conversations were never had in close vicinity to government buildings, nor in much more than a whisper. These conversations required close listening, long hikes or swimming far offshore into the Caribbean. Another conversation that I had many, many times with Cubans, younger ones, was also of the unfaithful sort. “You have a girlfriend? Not in Cuba you don’t. You must try the Cubanitas, they are the best chicas in the world. I have many girlfriends here and even a wife.” Irrelevant? Maybe. Or maybe this facade of faith that Cubans are forced to wear has caused a rebellion of sorts, affecting other parts of their life. As you can see from above, I am openly and outspokenly unfaithful to the government of my country. The act of visiting Cuba and then Mexico was in itself a rebellion in my mind. But I would never dream of being unfaithful in other aspects of my life, such as relationships. I am absolutely not defending unfaithfulness to loved ones, but maybe this forced faithfulness to a government painted black by human nature has caused a sort of psychological shift. It is entirely possible that Cuban ‘fiel’ has inadvertently bred exactly what it seeks to shade away insecurity.

But Cubans are also quick to point out proudly their high-quality public healthcare and education systems. They lament that the professionals in these fields do not make what they deserve and that for that reason many of them flee to more appreciative countries. This is where the conservative readers (if any are still reading) will rub their hands together with an evil smile and say, “exactly, that universal crap is impractical and impossible!” A few phrases come to mind (*Ahem* wealth gap salary cap stop the greedy crap Nate 2020 *ahem*) but this article is already far more political than my mother and sister would approve of at the dinner table.

One positive that all of this “fiel” has bred is art. Cuban culture is the richest I have ever experienced thanks to the pride of their art. Modern, classic, colonial, dance, music, cuisine (if you’re lucky)- Cubans have produced some really killer authenticity. Everywhere you go, there is an air of claves and congas and the rhythm of casino (Cuban salsa) flows constantly through the Cuban anatomy. In Cuba, unlike anywhere else I have been, it is very difficult to remove yourself from the culture. Getting on the Internet is a real chore and unless you are a weeny you’re living in Cuban people’s homes wherever you go. It is a truly unique and beautiful country, full of smiles and hope, but in need of a lot of help and guidance. It is also a place from which many things can be learned.

Cuban sentiments towards Cuba and the US faithful fidel Che Castro Guevara musician
A proud Cuban musician showing off his piano skills to a gringo
Cubans love their many dances- Carnaval in Santiago
Cuban travel fiel fidel faithful contradiction
An example of Cuba’s amazing architecture
A proud painter. I swear I asked if I could take his photo despite the look on his face!

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You can support No Strings Travel by using this link when shopping on Amazon! A small portion of the sale will go to us at no extra cost to you! Bookmark it :) https://amzn.to/2NAe2XV

No Strings Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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