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The Two Faces of Cuba

An Excerpt from Part II of The Breath of Cuba


People here wear two faces.  One is tired, worn and hopeless.  The other is friendly, tender and always welcoming, ready to stop, dance and enjoy the music the moment the beat drops.

Walking the streets of Havana these past few days, I’ve seen so much of both.  There is an undeniable sense of hopelessness here.  It is matched with a spirit of acceptance for what is and an undeniable ability to embrace life fully. This allows the people here to live in peace and enjoy a rich happy life in spite of their circumstances.  My culture could learn so much from their ability to adapt and embrace their reality.

In spite of old, decrepit, falling down homes they smile. In spite of the incredible stench of piss and filthy streets that they have to navigate every day to get to the food stalls, they smile.  In spite of the knowingness that it is unlikely that anything will ever change for them in their lifetime, they smile.  In spite of the fact that their government has effectively made them prisoners on this island, they laugh and enjoy spontaneous moments of song and dance with total freedom and joy.  

We could learn a lot from them in this respect in my country.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating contradictions to me here is the sense of hopelessness and surrender that seems to somehow support an innate ability to shift into gratitude and appreciation for things that we in the US often take for granted.  Albeit it is indeed a sort of resigned acceptance; yet Cubans have found an ability to be at peace in spite of their challenges.  They have learned to find innovative solutions to almost any problem.  They have learned something that we in the US would be wise to consider: the willingness to accept life as it is, regardless of the external conditions. The ability to appreciate the good things in life, and focus on them rather than wasting a lifetime complaining about the simple reality of what is.


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