Early last March (2016) I took my first trip to Cuba with an eye on natural medicine and their diet and food. It was something I wanted to do for a long time so I made the decision do it. Bottom line is that although it is quite different than middle class living here in the states, it impressed me overall. I made some good friends, toured Havana on bike for 10 days of my trip and got right into the fabric of the culture and its people. What Cuba lacks in terms of infrastructure, etc., it makes up for in many, many ways.
I took my second trip to Cuba this past February (2017) but instead of spending most of my time in Havana I explored the western and some of central parts of the island. Getting out of the city and observing the way of life of more rural Cuba had its pros and cons just like anywhere on this planet. This is what I’ll get into in this blog.
When you limit yourself to Havana and the surrounding area you limit your experience of the island. It’s a big island with many subcultures within. There’s the big city of Havana, the flat lands of agricultural, the beautiful mountain ranges and the coastal deltas and beaches. It would take me several more trips to experience all of Cuba but I think I was able to realize a whole lot more about the character of the island and the vast potential it has to offer not only its citizenry but to its neighbors, especially the US and Canada. Why, you may be asking? Real food is my simple answer.
In Cuba you can purchase fresh produce just about anywhere. There are no huge supermarket chains, just open-air markets, neighborhood produce stands and street vendors throughout the day. As a vegetarian you can eat like a king in Cuba. Dried local beans and rice are always available as are staples like onions, peppers and other basic veggie choices. Fruits are in abundance there. You could have a different type of smoothie there everyday of the week…….and that’s not even the best part. The best feature is that the farmers use little to no inorganic fertilizer there. Organic is normal there as opposed to here in the US and CA. You should taste the bananas and the pineapple….Wow!! Bottom line, make sure you either cook your own meals or stay somewhere where the host cooks for you. Don’t get me wrong, there is a growing list of great restaurants sprouting up but you have to be careful about food preparation.
The downside of my eating experience in Cuba was the water. As in Mexico, for example, you have to be very careful about the potable water situation. I’ve visited Cuba two times and have come home with mild Montezuma Revenge type symptoms both times. I believe you can blame this on the 50 year decaying of infrastructure in Cuba since the trade embargo with the US but that is a whole other subject. This last trip I made sure I brought back a water sample. The result was colonies of e-coli. So, be careful about the water you drink and how your produce was washed. Some people can tolerate this but I am not one of them. Make sure you take a good anti-parasite remedy with you if you go there. There are plenty of good products you can purchase on line.
Cuba has the same wonderful warm weather that southern Florida offers in the winter months plus its beautiful geography, friendly people and wholesome produce. That alone makes it a destination worth considering. Its drawback has been not being able to maintain and upgrade its roads, and buildings, etc. Yet, when I look back on my time there I can only see good things ahead for Cuba as long as we can trade with them and they are careful not to allow their progress to jeopardize the things that make Cuba…Cuba. Sure, they’ve got a long way to go in terms of rebuilding both public and private necessities but I don’t think they need to go the way of many commercialized areas of Florida. Materialism and consumerism have to be considered as they step forward.
Solar power is a must in a land of so much sunshine. Redeveloping their agri-business holds so much profit potential as it could offer its neighbors to the north affordable, organic produce throughout the year. All it takes is a little imagination and careful vision.