Cuban Statuary and Art
July 21, 2016
Cienfuegos, Cuba
July 21, 2016

On our last full day in Cuba, we traveled to a town called Matanzas City.Down on the town square, we visited Vigia Publishing House, a place where they make books–by that I mean, hand-made journals and bookmarks. Several people were sitting at a couple of tables and constructing colorful covers from fabric, buttons, string, and cutouts of other things.

Woman making journals and other small books.

Some of the books for sale

Again, the folks were lovely and welcoming and let us handle the merchandise. I bought a small journal with two lovers kissing on the cover and a bookmark that was hand-painted.

We also met with some UNEAC writers and exchanged ideas again. All the writers always seemed pleased to meet us.

Barbara and Prof. Susana

The food was most excellent. Anytime I can have fish, I’m happy.That afternoon, we drove back to Havana and checked into the Nacional Hotel, a 5 star hotel that has been standing for about 90 years. It reminded me a lot of the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, Texas, where I’m from. The hotel was visited by movie stars and politicians until the revolution. Then, solders were billeted there and practiced drills in the back in view of the bay. Later, the hotel was returned to what it was designed for.

A miniature of the Nacional Hotel.

Nacional Hotel which faces the water

The view from the walkway at the back of the Nacional Hotel. In the distance, a fort.

My room at Nacional Hotel.

double beds, double closets, dresser, large bathroom with tub, flat screen TV. And, of course, air-conditioning. I could have stayed there the whole trip, but then I suppose I wouldn’t have seen the real Cuba. When people say they’ve been to Cuba and just love it, I know some of them have been to “all-inclusive” resorts and never even visited Havana. I’m glad I had the experience of the real Cuba.

That night, we had our farewell dinner in a lovely dining room, not the one we were scheduled to be in, which was reputedly full.

Farewell dinner dining room.

Foreigners were everywhere–clearly some of them were very wealthy. The hotel had everything one could want, just as in any elegant hotel in a big city, including a jewelry store and a nightclub show as in “Copa Cabana.” We didn’t see the show, just a poster.

There was an office on a separate floor from the main floor where one could go to buy internet minutes and a scratch-off card with the access information. They also had computers there–an internet café. First time I’d had internet access for about 5 days.

The next morning, before I checked out, three of us went exploring. The grounds were gorgeous and included a pool and outside bar. Inside in the basement was a bar and a café where one could get takeaway, so I was able to obtain a sandwich for lunch on my Interjet flight back to Mexico City.

The next morning, before I checked out, three of us went exploring. The grounds were gorgeous and included a pool and outside bar. Inside in the basement was a bar and a café where one could get takeaway, so I was able to obtain a sandwich for lunch on my Interjet flight back to Mexico City.

Bar in the basement.

Me, next to an antique juke book. You can see the smile of the collages. The one to my left is the first one.
Me, next to an antique juke box. You can see the size of the collages. The one to my left is the first one. At the top it says 30s. Can you spot Errol Flynn?

The basement was like a museum with relics of days gone by including tall collages of photos of famous people who had visited each decade beginning in the 30s through recent times. Amazing to see recent photographs of Americans when we supposedly weren’t allowed to visit.

This is a trunk someone forgot when they checked out.

An old record player.
An old record player.

taxi outside the hotel the last morning.

Finally, the tour organizer went with me to the airport because she knows the ropes. All went well except the computer went down just as I went in to change my Cuban CUCs back into Mexican pesos. I found that to be interesting, especially because Cuba supposedly only got the internet this year. Couldn’t they figure out how to exchange my money by calculating with paper and pencil? Of course that’s assuming they had the current exchange rate printed out and in front of them. There was nothing for me to do but leave my money with the tour organizer for her to change later and bring to me when she returns to San Miguel. Luckily I had enough pesos so that when I reached Mexico City I could at least buy water.

I’m glad I went to Cuba. I found it to be very interesting. But I sure was glad to get back to San Miguel–to mi esposo and our perra, Hannah.

I would recommend if you are going to Cuba, see the real Cuba, not the one designed for foreigners. It will open your eyes to what can happen after over 50 years of communism. I’m not saying our system of capitalism in the United States is perfect–far from it–but I do think it’s better than what I observed in Cuba.

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