Postcard from Havana, Cuba
On the back of a postcard I bought at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto a few weeks ago:
Cuba, I guess, was a bitter pill. Our frail efforts at visiting the “Real Cuba” as opposed to the “Tourist Cuba” only served to prove that we don’t like the real Cuba, and neither, of course, do most Cubans. We stayed in three different cities, two of which (Havana and Varaderos) are tourist centres, so the crippled, interior poverty of the country was absent from our experience but only hinted at as we took a cab from city to city, passing by thatched roof homes with working donkeys living on the front porch. Our time there was one guided by hustlers, zombies and dead-eyed bureaucrats. Of course they would hate us, seeing in us only a mythic, superhuman capacity– one that was randomly dealt– to change their circumstances without damaging our own in the least. There’s an obscenity to wanting to have a fine lobster dinner in such a context, a very obvious one, and that tension was everywhere, invisible yet humming. We were billboards from the west– white, covered in corporate logos and sufficiently arrogant as to not know a word of Spanish. You know, I wanted to feel some sense of gratitude for my “charity” but what I felt was resentment and entitlement, which is probably the way that it should be. But in each small moment when we encountered what we hoped was the milk of human kindness or just a native curiosity about another human, it quickly revealed itself to be a prosaic, economic transaction.
The world is unfair in many, many ways.