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Impressions of Cuba

I often wonder what the percentage would be of people who did not only fly to Cuba, but also travelled to it. Or, put otherwise, how many spent their time on mojitos, daiquiris and the white-and-turquoise beach scenery of Varadero and the Cayos, the Cuban 'Keys'? Cuba is an exciting country to explore for many reasons. Havana is an extraordinary city; the visitor observes and lives its diverseness, which is like the palette of an inspired painter, the colours melting into a spontaneous mix and variety of shades, suggesting a whirl of emotions. Havana whirls with emotions: rightful pride for the classy grandeur of its buildings and plazas, apparent indifference barely concealing sorrow and humbleness for the state of disrepair of what used to be grand, entrancement at the unique sound of Cubafrican rhythms in local dance bars in the evening, wariness to face life in a city of shortages and ideology during the day. But, Cuba is not only Havana either. On the palette of our inspired painter we also see the pastel colours of the cobblestone streets in stylish colonial cities of the early 1500s, just like we also see the dark red stains of the violence of dehumanising, brutal slavery until well into the 19th century. Cuba is a place where meeting the past and meeting the present are confrontations that interrogate. And it is only by reaching out from West to East in a basic Chinese rental car that the answers start emerging.

Before visiting the place of your choice:

The Bay of Guantánamo lies just East of Santiago and is the largest natural harbour in the South-East corner of Cuba, opposite Haiti. After independence in 1898 Cuba maintained close ties with the United States, which had played an instrumental role in the war forcing Spain to recognise the loss of its island colony. In this mood of alliance and friendship, Cuba signed an agreement in 1903 to lease the Bay of Guantánamo to the US, without relinquishing sovereignty. Washington has ever since been making lease payments to Cuba. After the 1959 revolution the new Cuban leadership considered the Lease Agreement illegal and has consequentially been refusing to cash in on the American periodical lease payments. After the nine-eleven attacks and the subsequent US military operations in Afghanistan, the US has been using the base at Guantánamo to keep alleged terrorists in custody: under its firm control, but strictly outside US territory. Photography of the detention centre is obviously not allowed, so you will have to be satisfied with a peek at the beach, the giant iguanas that wobble around the place and a few shots of Guantánamo Bay's overflight. Even with full board free of charge, it's no place to stay long anyway, ask the guys in their orange outfits.

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