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Friday, June 3, 2016


So I went to a certain nation to the South of us. All the clichés were in evidence. The 1950s Chevys, the Buena Vista Social Club, the decayed infrastructure & European tourists, the revolutionary murals. I had no contact with the literary or academic world. Instead, I was pure tourist. At every restaurant we were serenaded with Bésame mucho, Quizás, Quizás, Quizás, Guantanamera, and Compay Seguro's "Chan Chan." We hated that song about three days into the trip.

The bookstores only featured books about Fidel and Che. Museums chronicled the history of the Island until about 1964. The people and landscape were extraordinary, but it was tough living as a clearly privileged person just because I carried the tourist currency. It is rare for an American to speak Spanish there. People often thought I must have had C****n parents, since I spoke Spanish with a more or less C****n accent when I was there.

The tourist dollar is worth 24 times the national currency. A person on a salary might earn 50-$200 a month in the national currency, but a taxi driver could net that much in equivalent tourist money with a few trips a week.


profacero said...

Where did you go and would it have been possible to avoid that kind of restaurant?

Do you think an independent bookstore would be allowed and if so, would it make it? If not, would it be for the reasons my town only has Barnes and Noble (a non-chain bookstore wouldn't get enough customers), or for other reasons?

Jonathan said...

I don't know. I didn't investigate the bookstore situation much. I imagine almost everything is state run aside from the obviously private paladares and casas particulates. The Cubans ate at even worse places, with maybe no musical accompaniment. Not every restaurant had a band, but it was frequent enough to be noticeable.

profacero said...

I haven't been to Cuba since the 90s.

You couldn't eat in a non tourist restaurant (except paladar or house) because you have to change money then and the 24-to-1 exchange rate made those restaurants too expensive.

Those tourist bands in tourist restaurants were irritating.