Ivan Garcia, 22 August 2016 — The breeze coming from the coast is a blast of hot air that barely cools things off. The sun reverberates and the tourists take refuge from the insufferable irradiation in a swimming pool in the form of a huge shell, split in two by a cement walkway.
Others escape from the heat wave by tossing down beer like British hooligans or drinking insipid mojitos one after another. The Russian and Serbian tourists continue doing their thing: drinking vodka with ice as if it were mineral water, leaning on the bar rail of the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort hotel, nestled into Cayo Coco, in the archipelago of the Jardines del Rey, north of Ciego de Ávila, a province some 360 miles to the east of Havana.
Ivan Garcia, 7 August 2016 — A couple of months ago under a frightening morning sun, the team of Cuban athletes who will compete in the next Olympic Games were training on the deteriorated synthetic track of the Pan American Stadium, east of Havana, under the watchful eye of a dozen trainers, with stopwatches around their necks while, taking notes on their tablets.
In a corner of the track, in the shade, as if escaping the sweltering heat, Dayron Robles was training in headphones and with his inseparable signature plain glasses on.
Ivan Garcia, 19 August 2016 — On a cloudy afternoon in early July, I went with my daughter to the reservation office in the basement of the Habana Libre hotel, to reserve for mid-August five nights in a hotel in Cayo Coco, in the north of Ciego Avila province, some 360 miles from the capital.
I started saving the money for it in September of last year. A tourism representative suggested the Memories Flamenco Beach Resort. The price was absolutely prohibitive for an ordinary Cuba: 1,188 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), which, when adding the cost of transportation, was nothing less than 1,290 CUC for five days of sun and beach.
On the day of departure, at four in the morning, we were there will two pieces of hand luggage and a briefcase, waiting for the bus that would take us to Cayo Coco. They told us to come to the parking lot of the Roman Fonst Sports hall, adjacent to the interprovincial bus terminal in the Plaza de la Revolution municipality. Continue reading “Five Nights in Cuba’s Tourist Apartheid / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 13 August 2016 — Like many Cubans who emigrate, Ariel celebrated by buying a case of Domincan-made Presidente beer and two bottles of aged Havana Club rum the day before his flight to Cancun.
Only his father and a couple of his friends knew of his plans. Weeks earlier, his wife flew to Miami legally as part of a family reunification program. Ariel, who did not want to wait two or three years to reunite with his wife, saved enough money and contacted a variety of people, who arranged his trip to Mexico. Continue reading “Emigration: The Great Cuban Obsession / Iván García”
Iván García, 9 August 2016 — The sun illuminates the Plaza Vieja, and a humid heat transforms the place into an open-air sauna. When you set foot on the cobblestones, the sensation you have is one of walking on burning embers.
At the entrance of the planetarium, dozens of kids accompanied by their parents get in line to see this piece of Havana geography from a black-box camera.
Iván García, 5 August 2016 — In the middle of the empty bottles of aged rum and the Presidente Dominican beer washed down on the patio, five people are drinking and talking about sports and business. From the back comes the sound of the Reggaeton, Hasta que se seque elMalecón, [“Until the Malecón dries up”] of Jacob Forever [a Reggaeton star].
Iván García, 30 July 2016 — One a hot afternoon in May, a Havana bicycle taxi driver became upset over a fine of 700 pesos and managed to overturn a government regulation which he considered arbitrary. This triggered a flawlessly prepared legal argument, which culminated in a protest by about forty taxi drivers in Revolution Square demanding their rights.
Officials of the regime treated them with kid gloves. The government dismissed the fines imposed on bicycle taxi drivers and promised to investigate irregularities and complaints of corruption against state inspectors.
Iván García, 1 August 2016 — Whatever serious prophecy is offered, Venezuelan President, Nicolás Maduro, has very few options. It’s an uncomfortable liability even for the followers of chavismo [the politics of Hugo Chávez, who preceded Maduro].
No one knows the interior of the Palace of Miraflores better than the Havana Regime. It’s an undisputed merit that the Castro brothers have conquered Venezuela without firing a shot.
Thanks to Fidel Castro’s charisma and his ideological narrative, the Island holds the reins of power in Venezuela. Of course, the intelligence reports that land on the desk of President Raúl Castro detail with surgical precision that Maduro’s government is numbering its days. Continue reading “Cuba and Venezuela: Stormy Weather / Iván García”
Iván García, 28 July 2016 — A woman with outlandish eye-glasses, reading a book in the back seat, and a sinewy mulatto who is chain-smoking and chatting up the driver on the approaching economic austerity are two of the six passengers in an old collective taxi that the chauffeur drives, zigzagging along the ruined road.
With the salsa music at full blast, we head to the village of Mariel, some 55 kilometers to the west of Havana. Two passengers get off at La Boca, a grey and ugly one-horse town where minutes are hours. Continue reading “The Other Mariel / Iván García”
Ivan Garcia, 4 July 2016 — Mayara finished ninth grade with excellent grades and the next school term she will start high school. She is thinking about going to university and getting a degree in civil engineering or architecture.
Until then, she is spending her holidays scrubbing dishes, cleaning house and helping her mother wash fifteen pounds of dirty clothes twice a week.
“I feel very bad for my daughter but I don’t have money for her to go a discotheque or a party with her friends. I cannot even afford to send her on a trip to the beach with some neighbors who have rented a bus. She’ll have to settle once again for watching television and reading books. I make 380 pesos a month (about 17 dollars) as a receptionist and that isn’t even enough to feed ourselves adequately. And I can’t rely on her father. He’s always drunk and months will pass before he gives his daughter so much as a peso,” says Mayara’s mother. Continue reading “Affordable Vacations in Cuba / Iván García”
Iván García , 22 June 2016 — The park at Galiano and San Rafael is a beehive of activity. At one end, several teenagers play soccer, using a school desk as the goal, while 50 men and women are connecting to the Internet, sitting on wooden benches or the ground.
Iván García, 9 June 2016 — Ask Luis Carlos Rodríguez, retired, his opinion about the designation of “Wonder City” based on an Internet survey conducted in the winter of 2014 by the Swiss foundation, “New 7 Wonders,” and you will hear a long list of complaints, sprinkled with insults, about the olive-green government that has governed the destiny of Cuba since January 1959.
Iván García, 19 July 2016 — At the traffic signal on Infanta and Carlos III, in the heart of Havana, Guenady takes advantage of the red light to thirstily take a swig out of a half-liter of ice water that he keeps at one side of his driver’s seat.
Perhaps the cold water helps to appease his fury. He spends 20 minutes protesting what he considers an arbitariness of the Government that is trying to regulate the prices of the routes taken by the collective taxis [taxis that pick up people and travel set routes, often old American cars].
Iván García, 11 July 2016 — Fernando, owner of a private business to the east of Havana, bought his ancient black Moskvitch during the difficult years of the Special Period, when the proprietor, a national labour hero, found himself obliged to sell his cane cutting business to feed his family.
Iván García, 23 July 2016 — It was announced on Friday, July 8 that Cuba had experienced an economic recession in the first half of this year and that there would be cutbacks in fuel consumption. If the country had a stock exchange or a convertible national currency, their fall would have been dramatic.
It was a black Friday in Cuba, where there is not even a semblance of Wall Street and the local currency is nothing more than paper. Businesses and direct investments that increase GDP are scarce. Prominent businesspeople and well-known multinationals survey the scene like birds of prey yet do not dare to swoop down on their targets. Continue reading “A Lighter Version of Cuba’s Special Period / Iván García”