Havana is an interesting and eclectic mix that is difficult to take in and hard to understand. From a purely touristic point of view I can see that the city and country might have something to offer. Havana boasts a lot of very beautiful and old colonial architecture, with grand old buildings and elegant, imposing boulevards.
Parts of the city have been beautifully restored to their former splendour, while in other quarters old and dilapidated buildings with trees going through the floors and on the verge of collapse dominate the face of the city. And although that may not necessarily sound to appealing, strangely enough these buildings too exude a charm of their own.
But there are also a few down sides. The country is very poor and the local population really have next to nothing at all. The upshot of this is that literally everybody in this city is on the make and as a foreigner you are basically treated as nothing more than a walking bank. Everybody you meet will try to sell you some old useless crap. They’re not pushy but if you decline to buy, they will come right out with it and ask you if you have some money for them. I guess there’s nothing wrong with begging but somehow it comes across as rather undignified and leaves behind a rather unpleasant sense of desperation.
I’m not saying that the Western system we call capitalism is better or even good. But it seems to me that in Cuba’s interpretation of socialism, everyone is equal and in that everyone is equally badly off. The government’s propaganda follows you everywhere you go in Cuba and you cannot help but feel that its sole purpose is to justify the hardship the population is suffering. But surely, there has to be another way. Thus, it is my personal view that the Cuban government has failed its own people. The only thing that seems to work in the country is the healthcare system.
If socialism means living in squalor, in buildings on the verge of dilapidation and collapse, abject poverty and without the freedom to say that one plus one is two – because you know it and not because you’re told so – then basically the only conclusion I can draw is that socialism has failed. And Cuba is a sad demonstration of just that.