Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mike Collazo: Don't count on seeing the 'real' Cuba


... the assumption that the Castro government would allow U.S. tourists or businesses to subvert the revolution via approved “cultural” exchanges and personal interactions with “average” Cubans is at best naïve. The truth is that American visitors on these exchanges have limited contact with average Cubans, because hotels and resorts are generally off limits to the average Cuban and controlled by Cuba’s security apparatus. If you do meet a Cuban scholar, environmentalist, artist, musician, community organizer or author on one of these trips, you will almost certainly do so only because the Cuban government has determined that the person’s political views are sufficiently orthodox to permit interaction with foreigners.

Over the past decades hundreds of thousands of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists have visited the island, but Cuba isn’t more democratic. If anything, the state and its control apparatus have been strengthened by tourist dollars. And according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami, even though more than 60 percent of Cubans on the island are black or mulatos, the Cuban government actively discriminates against them for jobs in the tourist industry, believing that tourists prefer to deal with whites and light-skinned people. As a result, a cultural exchange trip to Cuba will include more than just mojitos and walks on the beach — one will also experience racial discrimination at its worst.

If you wish to connect with the real Cuba, follow and support prominent Cuban political dissidents like Yoani Sánchez (@yoanifromcuba) (English) and Rosa María Payá (@RosaMariaPaya) (Spanish) and human rights organizations like Human Rights in Cuba (@FHRCuba) (English) on Twitter. You also could read “Take Me With You,” a novel by Palm Beach Post columnist Carlos Frías, which recounts his personal experiences in Cuba.

But above all else, consider taking a trip to Jamaica — not Cuba. (read full text at

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