There are more cars on the streets, even traffic jams, a previously unknown phenomenon in Havana. There are many more houses and buildings with fresh paint, brightly colored symbols of more money and more resources available to Cubans. There are dozens of public Internet hotspots that attract dozens and dozens of people standing on the sidewalks with their smartphones and laptops to connect to the outside world. And, there is a palpable energy that you can see in people's faces and observe in the hundreds of new, small businesses—from nail salons to delis to restaurants—that are being driven by the influx of capital from foreign-based relatives supporting their families in Cuba.
But without being too much of a killjoy, those are simply cosmetic changes. There is still a national decrepitude that pervades every city and every rural community, from the potholes in the streets, to the crumbling facades of old and new buildings alike and a general level of apparent poverty that startles most foreigners. The government remains an obstacle to unfettered foreign investment, although many foreign entrepreneurs are hustling around hotels and government offices ready to pour in what they know is 100-percent risk capital, with the hope that the rules will change some day in their favor. And, the notion of free expression, of expressing dissident opinions against the sitting government, remains a risky proposition for Cuban nationals. And, unfortunately, Cubans seem to be unrealistically expecting major things to happen quickly, both from the United States and from their own government, a disconnect from real world politics that could lead to severe disappointment and frustration. (Read full text at Cigar Aficionado Magazine)