Cuba, that mystical land of mojitos, cuba libres, and Cohiba cigars…and, after 50 years of embargo, decaying, yet glorious art deco architecture. Gorgeous old homes, hotels, cigar factories, banks, cafes, all covered with gorgeous facades in the art deco style can be seen around every corner and down every alleyway in Havana.
Cuba is breath taking, both literally and figuratively, because the cars from the 1940s are still rolling past. Kept running by cuban ingenuity and mechanical skill, many of these cars are put to work as private taxis for tourists. Belching exhaust as they roll past, those with asthmatic lungs should be warned to not forget their inhalers.
But, the real treasures to be found on this small island country are found in the cuban people. With one of the highest literacy rates in the world, a vast majority of cubans have college educations and can speak several languages. The crime rate in Havana is low, and in general, the cuban locals were friendly, helpful, and welcoming. And tidy! No one seemed to have offensive body odor, nor did the most run-down areas waft unpleasant smells.
Cuba is a land of surprises, and weirdly, a mirror. The cuban people do so much with so little and yet they seem happy and peaceful. Compared to the wealth of our society, we Americans seem a bit gluttonous, maybe even spoiled by having everything the instant that we want it. Maybe (if the embargo ever lifts,) experiencing the cuban pace of life will bring a new bit of perspective to those lucky enough to visit.