Most people think mistakenly that you can’t travel to Cuba as an American Citizen. That’s bananas. You can travel to Cuba from the US so long as you follow the rules. For some time now, missionaries, educators, photographers, medical professionals and journalists have been visiting the island, but you too can go.
I truly believe that the thought of travel to Cuba being banned originates from two sources. One is the U.S. Embargo on Cuba. The other is propaganda from our media outlets. For far to long we’ve positioned ourselves as an enemy of the Cuban government, a powerful neighbor to the north that punishes, contains, strong arms and twists the truth. To be fair, Cuba does plenty of its own manipulation but that’s what governments do. We know that. Part of my job is to take people to Cuba to experience the culture of the Cuban people. It’s wonderful when you look closely.
I’m not saying I’d like to be a full-time resident of Cuba, but I know some Americans who do just that. They get hooked, and unless you visit you won’t know what I’m talking about. Imagine, you’re in what was the richest city in the hemisphere. All trade went through Cuba and much of that was gold from South and Central America. Havana was an excellent defended port, and one to restock before taking the journey across the Atlantic to Europe. Money poured into Havana, and all you have to do is look around to see. Yes, you’ll see crumbling buildings with faded and flaking paint, but that’s the makeup of one of the most amazing places in the world.
In the morning vendors sell their fresh fruits, bakery items and other clever treats. Children play marbles. Someone is smoking a cigar watching the city come alive. The sun shines through the many park trees throughout the city. Monuments come to life. The Capitol Building towers mightily and shines after its recent restoration. Three wheeled bikes and coco cars await to take passengers to their destination. Cars from the 1950’s are everywhere. Not rare sightings, but everywhere. Each in its own condition with some fully restored and others it’s a wonder their holding together. Some of the soviet era cars dot the streets like the infamously terrible “Lada”, that was copied from the French Groupe Renault.
Drivers of the nicer cars have had this resource handed won to them from their parents, or outright bought it after saving for a long time. Much pride is taken in these cars, and the drivers are happy to take guests all over town. There are beautiful avenues mixed with streets of gordian knot electrical wires. Colorful clothes hang from the balcony drying in the bright sun.
Songs boasting from the squares come from ladies selling delicious roasted Spanish peanuts. They’re more than happy to come sing a song and give you some tropical flirt to get you to buy, and you should. Fortune tellers smoking cigars the size of a paper towel roll is there to read your cards. Cuba is primarily a culture with a mix of Christianity, Santeria and Atheism. Without an open mind this can feel uncomfortable, but it’s part of what makes Cuba so unique.
Step inside the many galleries of Cuba. The Artist Community is growing every day, and despite the protests and crackdowns they’ll continue to produce some of the finest art in the world. A representation of their dreams, thoughts and the life they know.
You’ll also see memorials and museums honoring not only the recent revolutionary heroes, but those of the past. Jose Marti, Theodore Roosevelt, the Rough Riders and those adventurers of long ago. Paladars, or privately owned restaurants can be large establishments, or the living room of an entrepreneur are ready to serve you. Tables with checkerboards and those playing are common in the city. Havana is robust, and vibrant. Music is part of its heartbeat and can be heard in a variety of locations.
I’m asked how to get in Cuba quite often. Almost like a clandestine operation. You can travel to Cuba in 2022. It requires a plane ticket, accommodations through My XO Adventures, private transportation, a Cuban Visa, insurance and cash. These are the requirements to travel to Cuba. Which airlines are flying to Cuba? Currently only Southwest Airlines offers a rather robust schedule of one flight per day out of Tampa. Finally, you’ll need cash to travel to Cuba. Is Cuba expensive to visit? Not really, but it all depends if you fall into the tourist traps. Expect to pay high prices for dinner and a show, but if you’re budgeting there are plenty of places to stay and eat that fit each budget.
The face of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara have recently been made popular in the US, but for too long they were painted as the enemy. Not because they did anything worse than the U.S. did, but because they did what they wanted. The U.S. doesn’t generally like that, and points fingers while the same kind of things are happening back at home.
It’s not very complicated. The U.S. used Cuba to its benefit, the people of Cuba got the shaft and a revolution started. The Soviets took advantage and, in the end, played Cuba like a pawn. It’s all very sad, and we have a wonderful opportunity to make a new friend, mend relationships and thrive together. Maybe someday this will happen, but it’ll take brave politicians to do the right thing so don’t hold your breath.
In the meantime, enjoy Cuba for where it is now. You’ll never see another place like it and you can travel there. My XO Adventures is expanding its presence in Cuba in the hopes of lifting people up and providing a greater understanding of an amazing people.
Traveler, adventurer, daredevil, part time writer and owner of My XO Adventures.