Cuba Musings Part I

Even though my husband was in politics for many years, I’ve never been one to wrap the American flag around me. Sure, like so many of you, I love the United States and feel a sense of gratitude for being able to live in a free country. Those are feelings I’ve had since I was a little girl and they were probably instilled in me by my parents and other authority figures. I’d never thought about it, but I didn’t realize there was a country where one couldn’t get a coca cola, orange juice, use an American credit card, etc, not far from Florida!

We had to get euros here in the US before we left and then exchange the euros in for Cuban currency when we got there. In Cuba there’s an embargo of all things American – even money – and yes, the cars from the 50s one sees in photos are for real! A lot of them are used as taxis in Havana. We met a couple of people who took one from the hotel to the airport (money talks there when you’re standing in a long, line security line) and they said they’d never ride in a convertible in Havana at noon with the top down again!

After being there, I really appreciate living in a free country. Since returning from Cuba, a county of incongruities – devastating poverty along with the incredibly beautiful sights of the Caribbean, I’m still processing the things I saw. It is still a Communist country. Even though it’s on the verge of opening up to Americans, it hasn’t yet, but the feeding frenzy has begun. And you probably wonder how an American came to go to Cuba before it’s even open to Americans!

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My husband got a call from a fishing guide he’s fished with for years. He’s considered to be the number one fly fishing guide in the United States – Jack Trout – yep, that’s his name. Trout is legally his middle name so is there a better name for a fishing guide? I digress. Since Americans will soon be able to fly directly to Cuba, a number of different industries want to be the first ones to get there and the sport fishing industry is no different. An Italian company made some type of a deal with the Cuban government awhile ago, and they hold the exclusive rights to fish in an area around the island of Cayo Largo, where we went. They contacted Jack about becoming their representative in the United States, and he asked my husband if he would go with him and give his input. There was no way I was going to miss that trip! Here’s a photo of the lobby of the hotel we stayed at in Havana. Really, really 19th century beautiful!

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Americans cannot fly directly to Cuba unless they’re with a group who has permission, so we had to fly to Mexican City first. We were able to then go on to Cuba. Americans have to spend a night coming and going in Havana. A beautiful city of incredible architecture, brilliant colors, and extreme poverty. I felt like I was in another century.

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From Havana we flew to an island that has to be one of the most beautiful in the world – Cayo Largo – and yes, I wrote a book while I was there looking out at the Caribbean from my room. Think I’ll call it Murder in Cayo Largo. No dogs, no children, salsa music, great fishing, horrific humidity, and beauty beyond belief. Why no dogs and no children? There are no permanent residents on the island even thought there are several resort hotels there. Everyone who works on the island – the fishing guides, the people who staff the hotels, and everyone – lives in dormitories, four to a room. They work for 20 days and then are off for 10 days. That’s when they go to another island, usually the Isle of Youth, to be with their families. People who work on the island are considered to have the best jobs in Cuba. Paradox – some Cubans can work on the island, but they are not allowed to go into the hotels, bars, etc. My husband’s fishing guide, a Cuban, was arrested for entering a bar and dancing with a Venezuelan woman. Not allowed. No Cubans from the mainland are allowed to go to the island, only workers. Rumor has it that this Communist nation does not want the “have-nots” to see what “have” looks like.

From what my husband told me the fishing was incredible. Bonefish, tarpon, and permit. They fished in zones – all catch and release – and only a couple of boats are allowed in a zone on any given day. It was so hot and the sun was so intense that every part of their bodies had to be covered, even down to wearing fingerless gloves. They looked like aliens. When I stepped outside the humidity was so high my sunglasses would steam up for several minutes and I felt like I’d just taken a shower and hadn’t dried off. Unbelievable!,

Please join me for Part II tomorrow. If you’d like to learn about other books I’ve written, please visit www.dianneharman.com  Thanks for reading this. Please leave a comment and you’ll be entered for an ebook – Kelly’s Koffee Shop – first in the Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series since the new book will be in that series. Thanks for reading this!

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