Sweating profusely from head to toe, we sit slightly anxious in an over sized and notably dated chair atop giant slabs of marble floor, smoking small cigars from the countryside. I take a long deep pull of the locally grown handcrafted cigar and ash in what is a lavish two foot high marble ash tray.
Trying not to act impatient I walk over to the wall and view the casually framed black and white faded photos of two unmistakable faces.
Likely one of the most popular faces to be stamped on a deep green t-shirt in a black image. It’s the scruffy face of one Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
We’re sitting in the base of the twenty five story Hotel Habana Libre. Originally built, owned and run by the Hilton group in 1958. It was taken over and made principle headquarters by Fidel 1959 in room #2324.
Revolutionary history wafts from the marble walls.
Sometime later a man greets us and we are escorted to the top floor rooftop bar of the twenty five story hotel.
The room is split in half and part of it sinks into the lower lever with dance floor and stage. Cigar smoke is thick, like Cuban Mafia thick. The heat of the room causes the drink glasses to fog as ice hits them.
We look around for a table close to the action.
The room is filling up with a mix of affluent looking locals, modestly dressed tourists and older businessmen with lightly dressed attractive Cuban ladies.
We try to make small talk, thou I’m not actually sure how we even ended up here & the music is at levels where we’d be yelling just to get the point across. I’m told it’s a “cabaret” and there should be dancing.
Like any good Latin party, the room suddenly erupts with lavish dancers, heavy music and moves that would make So You Think You Can Dance appear boring.
As the heat and smoke builds, the drinks disappear and are replenished, the stimulus of the room is almost at a breaking point.
Suddenly the roof splits and like water in a cracked hull the wind rushes in.
The music and dancing intensify, the smoke vanishes and the roof continually widens until it’s a full convertible party with millions of starts to light the dance floor. Everyone is dancing. I feel like we are split between a 60’s Latin dance party and a futuristic club.
This is just one of the nights in Cuba that are all going to change. For better or for worse, it’s all going to change.
Lets bring you up to snuff on what was and will be Cuba.
-1492 Columbus “discovers”, thou he wasn’t exactly the fist, Cuba. It becomes a Spanish Colony
-1762 Brittan takes over for a while and then trades Cuba for Florida with Spain. It’s like the baseball cards of countries.
-1868 First Cuban war for independence.
-1902 Cuba gains independence.
-1917 Cuba joins WWI with the allies.
-1933 Batistas rebels overthrow the current government and he takes control.
-1953 Fidel Castro with 160 followers take their first shot at overthrowing Batistas government, instead he winds up in jail.
-1955 Fidel is released from prison.
-1959 After a number of battles Batista hits the road to save his neck and Fidel & Che’s rebels take over lead by Manuel Urrutia.
-1960 The Cuban government “nationalize” all U.S. property and business. Naturally this pisses off the U.S.
-1960/61 U.S. places a trade embargo on Cuba. Basically the country is now a ticking time capsule and nothing is coming in from it’s neighbours.
-1962 U.S. discovers Soviet Union has a bunch of weapons set up in Cuba and surrounds the island with fighter ships, planes and a bunch of military. Things are a little tense. “The Cuba Missile Crisis”
-1967 Che Guevara is executed in Bolivia. If the stories are accurate it’s was less then an honourable death.
-1976 Fidel Castro takes over Cubas president.
-1993 Cuba invents the Convertible Peso. A sort of scheme to get around accepting U.S. dollars and inflating exchange for tourists. Clever and ridicules.
-1998 Pope John Paul II visits Cuba & makes it his mission to make U.S. & Cuba friends again.
-2004 U.S. dollars not accepted and hit with a 10% exchange tax. There is still a U.S. Cuba pissing match going on.
-2006 Raul Castro takes over as president. Fidel is getting sick.
-2014 Rual Casto and Barack Obama state they will be restoring ties between the two nations for the first time in over fifty years.
-2015 U.S. citizen can use debit and credit cards in Cuba, tourists can be covered by U.S. travel insurance, banks can facilitate U.S. transactions, U.S. companies can invest in small business, U.S. can ship building materials to Cuban companies.
So what the hell does this all lead up to?
Basically a sheet was put over the island of Cuba by it’s neighbour and the worlds greatest power in the 60’s making it a total time capsule. Ideals, building, clothes, equipment, and so on. One of the most notable being the automobiles. Everything from rusty old lead burning Mercury Coupes to a next to mint condition Chev Belair.
If you we’re a baby boomer born in North America from the mid 40’s to the mid 60’s these would have been part of your childhood, teen and adult years. The all American classics.
Not at car shows or hidden away, anyone who is driving is basically rolling around in a pair of war ration blue jeans rockin a Bel Air! Wow, it’s amazing.
People spend thousands trying to claw back there youth with creams, collectables, albums and so on and Cuba is a ticking time capsule that has it all and is about to blow.
Depending on who runs the world in the next election could determine if it’s a wall or a bridge to Cuba, much like it’s Spanish speaking neighbours to the South. Thou things are already a changing.
Any American investment company could easily buy up costliness selling condos and holiday homes for peanuts. You could fly from Florida to Cuba in 60mins and own a condo for likely 1/100th of what it would cost in The Keys.
Adventures are always seeking out the last great frontier around the globe and it is quite literally swimming distance off the U.S. coastline.
If you’re a baby boomer looking to feel like a kid again, go.
If you’re a historian seeking out an immerging nation, go.
If you’ve never had the chance to watch fifty years of history unfold then go.
Cubas going to change and it will be rapid.
You should go to Cuba…yesterday.
Have you been to Cuba, where would suggest to go and why?