Cuba is waiting for us as much as many of us are waiting to return. As of today, October 13, 2020, Cuba is preparing to reopen to tourism in the next phase of it’s CoVid response. Officials in Cuba claim that the virus is contained. My friends there on the ground tell another perspective of the same story. Overall, they all seem to agree that relatively speaking, there are very few cases. They all feel that Cuba has good medicine and is having great success at treating the virus. Death rates are some of the lowest in the world. Others I know there tell me that there are “bastante” (too many) unreported cases and that the situation is not good at all. Ultimately, it sounds like the same story we can tell here in the USA: no one really knows the true gravity of the spread or infection rate. People are stressed and exhausted from it all. Others say there are no cases, and they are ready for us to return.
While many will say that it is because of the Cuban government’s desire to cover up the truth, let me first remind those who are so quick to cast judgement, that the USA, Europe, China, and just about every other country in the world, are also guilty of false and gross inaccuracies in reporting the true gravity of the impact of CoVid. The truth is, no matter what country we speak of, it is impossible to know the true numbers or impact of this virus. CoVid is a sneaky virus and thousands of cases go undetected around the world, so how can we possibly trust in any reporting or numbers from any country?
There isn’t a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t hurt a little bit. I miss Cuba with every cell in my body. I miss the long nights of dancing and laughter. I miss walking the cobblestone streets arm in arm with beautiful friends with my body exhausted from hours of dancing. I miss the simplicity of life there and the smiles and greetings of the people in their daily lives. I miss my little casa on the hill and the family who lived beneath me on the first floor, the laughter of the little children, the music floating through the air and the sensual touch of Oya’s breath on my skin. I miss hours of conversation with no need to rush anywhere and no where to rush to. I miss weeks on end of not being in a vehicle and walking or biking everywhere. I miss the crystal clear seas, and the horseback rides into the countryside to visit with my friends and sip coffee. I miss fresh chemical free foods and the smell of bread baking as I pass the bakery. I miss the music, and the excitement of dancing with such high energy and skilled dancers. I miss everything about the place that became a second home for me.
It has been almost 7 months since I left Cuba, and over a year since my heart was crushed and my life devastated by a man I mistakenly trusted as a lifelong ally and friend. The past year has been a healing journey with CoVid thrown right in the middle of it. My years and experiences on that beloved rock in the middle of the Caribbean sea live in me in every moment of my life now. It has touched every part of my life, every part of my heart, every part of my mind and soul. Cuba has that effect on people who are open to it’s magic. It can and will transform you from the inside out.
Now with Cuba opening for travelers again, my friends in Cuba are wondering when I am coming. Of course, there is a huge part of me that wants to rush back to the island, to hug and hold my friends and see their faces, to dance with them again, to slip back into that simple life. The life in the USA is overwhelming for me somedays. I am exhausted by too much time on computers and not enough time walking, dancing and being in community. The struggle to pay bills and keep on top of everything here is a drain on me often and I can not lie, I have had moments where I have to lay on the floor and let myself cry to grieve for what is happening around the world to so many millions of lives. We are living in times that I always hoped I would not have to live through. Economic struggles, world issues, civil unrest, environmental degradation, overpopulation, dictatorships running rampant, human rights being trampled, increases in racism and intolerance and hate crimes, and the total stripping away of everything that made America a great country. These were all the reasons I fled to Cuba in the first place. I knew this was all coming, and I wanted nothing more than to be out of the country during these times.
And yet, knowing what my friends and beloveds in Cuba are going through at this time, I also feel some gratitude that I am here. You won’t hear about it in the news. You likely won’t hear about it even from your Cuban friends, but things in Cuba are not good at the moment for the people there. It is almost impossible for an outsider to comprehend what they have been going through with the CoVid shut downs. The economy is crippled. Food sources and options have been steadily depleting. The cost of rice went from about 10 cents to nearly a dollar a pound, which makes it very hard for the average Cuban to afford, considering that there is no income, no tourist dollars to pump up the economy, and their average salary when they are working is only 10-20 Dollars a month. Supplies are low, tensions are high. My friends on the ground there report to me that fighting in the lines for food is increasing, the people are feeling desperate, tired and scared.
As much as I want to go, I will be waiting it out for a little while to let Cuba get re-established a little. Of course I want to return, but going to Cuba at this time under the current restrictions, not able to dance, possibly not able to see many of my friends, and not being able to help my friends much due to the economic hits this crisis has had on my business as well is more than I am ready for.
The latest is that if you do travel to Cuba, you must stay in a state run hotel and free mingling with the Cuban people is not encouraged and may have restrictions. My suggestion, quite honestly, is to wait a little longer before booking your trip to Cuba with us. Give them some time to get re-established and healed from the traumas of this crisis so that your Cuban travel experience can offer you a fun adventure.
I also think it is critical that each traveler be more personally and socially responsible for their potential impact to Cuba. I will recommend all travelers to be tested for CoVid before getting on their flight. One irresponsible traveler can lead to thousands of deaths for a small island nation like Cuba. Please take care of yourself, be tested before flying to Cuba and be tested upon arrival to ensure that you are doing your part to help keep Cuba safe and yourself and your people too.
If you want to make a difference in the life of a Cuban family, please learn about the Cuban Pen Pal Project and make a personal connection there with someone who can help open all kinds of cool experiences to you when you are ready to travel to Cuba with The Breath of Cuba Travel.