Breakfast. Thank God they never ran out of fruit. No news there. We were on the road to Santa Clara and the Che Guevara Memorial and then toTrinidada city of 40,000 and a stay at the Hotel Ancon a beachside resort.
[photogallerylink id=34291 align=left]We were looking at about 7 hours in the bus with an evening of music at the Casa de la Trova and Casa de Musica. But first, a long question and answer session with Raul of the Cuban Tourism Bureau. Raul, obviously well educated, didn’t necessarily hold to party lines. He was very candid and straight forward and obviously enjoyed talking politics inside a bus going 60 miles an hour with the recorders turned off.
I hadn’t seen any mailmen or trucks but he assured me people did get mail although he couldn’t explain the delivery system except in the countryside where he said planes drop bags of mail from the air about once a month. Raul loved talking about the success of Cuban athletics. Cubans excel in individual sports. Raul felt baseball was an individual sport not a team sport. Soccer he considered a team sport and not a sport Cuban’s excel because everyone on the team has a tendency to kick the ball at the same time. Next to baseball it’s boxing that grabs the attention of the majority of the Cuban people.
The highway system was built in the 70′s and in excellent shape. The US sold more cars to Cuba in 1957 and 1958 than anywhere else in the world. Cuba has few televisions, refrigerators and train tracks and the lowest rate of phones in Latin America. The last census taken in 2001 showed fewer radios and TV’s than in 1950. I thought the traffic was light in Havana but Raul thought there were too many cars and too few places to park. Legally you’re supposed to have a driver’s license and insurance but nobody has insurance. If there’s an accident the parties work it out. Sometimes it leads to hand delivered dents.
Politically, there is less respect now for Fidel and more hope for individual reform under Fidel’s brother who is practically invisible. The Bay of Pigs according to Raul was a bad place to conduct an invasion. The original target was Trinidad. After the Pope’s visit Fidel made Christmas a holiday. Cuba isn’t an atheist country. You can be a member of the Communist Party and a Catholic at the same time. The Masons in Cuba still have a powerful role.
Santa Clara, a city in the center of an island, doesn’t have a lot of historical value. Che took the city in 1958 with less than 300 men after blowing up the railroad tracks and taking 2300 prisoners. At the memorial we were instructed not to speak. The museum next door was interestingly small but crammed with pictures and weapons. Che was from Argentina and a Dentist turned revolutionary. After a chance meeting with Castro and the successful overthrow of Batista, Che moved on to Nigeria, Algeria and Bolivia where he was finally killed or assassinated depending on whom you believe.
The Ancon Hotel where we stayed outside of Trinidad was a pleasant all inclusive hotel on the water. I walked the beach, had dinner then went to town to check out the clubs in the city. It was the first night I actually got some sleep.