Cuba Marches Forward

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While some in the US seek to move the clock backward when it comes to recognizing individual rights, Cuba is eagerly marching forward.  As the US works turning back the clock on US/Cuban relationships, Cuba is eagerly courting partners that will step in and fill the gigantic vacumm that exists in Cuba as it developes its own version of economic socialism, much as the US trading partners of Viet Nam and the Peoples Republic of China have already done.  Both China and Russia are eagerly developing ties with Cuba, while the US chooses to ignore the opportunities next door and continues a haughty “we are better than everyone,’ including everyone else in the neigbhorhood, which might include our neighbors the Canadians, the Mexicans, and all of Latin America including Cuba.

If the US wants it, and works hard enough to achieve it, we can have another Cold War, or Hot War.  But Cuba marches forward.

Under the new, proposed Cuban Constitution same-sex marriage would be allowed.  Attitudes in Cuba toward sexuality have changed radically since the early days of the Castro Revolution, led largely in recent years by Raul Castro’s daughter.

Accordidng to Andrea Diaz, writing for CNN, ” the current constitution, written in 1976, defines marriage as “the voluntary established union between a man and a woman,” but an article in the new proposed constittion was modified and doesn’t specify the gender of individuals getting married. Instead it will say “a consensual union between two people.”

“Homero Acosta, secretary of the Council of State, told lawmakers during last weekend’s hearing session that the concept of marriage has been modified to represent the future of Cuba.

“‘We are not the first, nor would we be (in) the vanguard in this matter because there are around 24 countries that have this concept incorporated; we could not turn our back on this issue when preparing a new constitutional project,” Acosta said during the assembly, according to Granma [the official Cuba state newspaper]’

“Acosta also stated that the lawmakers studied international laws to have a better understanding of human rights and prevent any form of discrimination toward the Cuban people.In addition, he argued, whoever discriminates can be punished.

“The state has to educate our people on the principles of equality, and support for the most disadvantaged, the elderly, people with disabilities. It is a principle of social justice and humanism of our system,” he said.

“The senior official explained that once the constitution is ratified, lawmakers will have a year to modify aspects of the Civil and Family Code that stem from this change, including inheritance, as well as rights to adoption and assisted reproduction for same-sex couples.”

Cuba’s existing medical programs allow for gender-changing operations to be performed, covered by the Cuban free medical system.

Cuba’s march toward equality is radically different than the stated goals of many in the current US administration who are seeking to turn back the clock in the US.

Interestingly the proposed new Constittuion “eliminates the term ‘communism’ and marks ‘socialism’ as a state policy, which contradicts the current constitution that calls it a ‘communist society,’ says Granma.

“Esteban Lazo Hernández, president of the National Assembly, pointed out it is important to remember many things have changed since 1976 when the present constitution was written.

“This does not mean that we renounce our ideas, but in our vision we think of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country,” Lazo said, Granma reported.

“In April, Miguel Diaz-Canel was named Cuba’s new President to succeed Raúl Castro, and there were talks of restricting the presidency to two five-year terms, a clause that has been added to the new draft, as well as stating that the minimum age to run for the presidency should be 35 and the maximum 60.

“Even though the office of the presidency is not going away, under the new constitution, the president will no longer be the head of both the Cuban Council of State and Council of Ministers. Instead, the new position of prime minister will be created to lead the Council of Ministers.

“‘The new constitution will take into account all human issues and bring social justice to build a better political system for our people, and strengthen the national unity,’ Diaz-Canel said, the Ministry of National Affairs reported.

“The constitutional reform also opens a path to owning property and will recognize private property and businesses as part of ‘Cuba’s socialist economy,’ which Cuban officials note is a big step to improving the island’s wealth, and a move forward from the current communist constitution that only recognizes state property and agricultural businesses.”

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Cuba is an exciting destination and the time to explore Cuba is now, before it is overrun with mega cruise ships.  I invite you to join me this fall on the intimate PEARL MIST as we sail around the island of Cuba visiting the main areas including Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba.  I’ll be on the ship at least from November 4th through Christmas and New Year’s.  Come join us!

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Last Christmas the chrech above the entrance to the Cathedral in Santiago de Cuba.  The sign reads, “Christmas is rebirth.”  Cuba is making progress, although the star above the manger is red.  Who knew?

A Matter of Opinion

Not to knock housewives from Utah, except for Ms. Foster  who judges books by their title, or cover, or heaven knows, and pretty much killed sales of my CUBA book.  Maybe she thought it was a romance novel, or a cruise travel books with hints how to pour vodka into plastic water bottles and try to smuggle it on board, or how to travel around Cuba on $5 a day using US money, I don’t know.  I did do a little research on Amazon about her, her background, and what other books she had reviewed.  I promise, I did not judge her by her picture, nor that she reviewed the movie BAYWATCH and called it “A great movie!”  I’m sure if we’d met under different circumstances I would like her, which is the same way I felt about the woman who back ended my car, if you could forget about the damage.

I wrote this book primarily for the guests who travel with me on 10-day cruises around Cuba, so folks who’ve come to know Cuba.  I’ve never purchased my book on Amazon, but I have purchased a few hundred on Amazon’s Create Space company which I sell on board.  Uniformly the guests LOVE the book, judging it not just by the title or cover, but on the basis of their experiences in Cuba.

Ralph de la PortillaSo rather than just fret about Ms. Foster’s, in my humble opinion, warped review, I asked someone who really does know Cuba and know Cuba travel.  Ralph de la Portilla  describes himself as an “A B C” or an American-born Cuban.”  He is a professional travel guide, conducts gastronomic tours and other tours working with Little Havana Tours in Miami,  organizes group tours to Cuba, and has led tours for Collette, Classic Journeys and Road Scholar.  He holds a Master of Science degree from Florida International University School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

So here’s what Ralph had to say about the CUBA book …

Detrich’s publication on Cuba, “Cuba: A Guide For Cruising Around Cuba,” is required reading for the modern American traveler planning on visiting the island nation via cruise ship. It really is concise and delivers a realistic perspective of what one can expect of the ports of call that are frequented by cruise lines that circumnavigate the country. The book also offers a unique take on other destinations within Cuba that are certainly off the beaten path. The historical background and the various onshore activities are expertly delineated in this easy-to-read piece, and considering the fact that Cuba is one of the most complicated touristic destinations on Earth, it’s that simplicity which readers will truly appreciate.  Not just “worth-the-read,” but compulsory if considering a cruise to Cuba…

This will be an interesting week for Cuba.

April 18, 2018 – Let me just add, you want to read a well-balanced, informative op ed piece in the New York Times by Christopher Sabatini, a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and executive director of Global Americans, entitled “We Shouldn’t Ignore Cuba.”

Raul Castro is expected to step down as President of Cuba and for the first time there will no longer be a Castro at the helm.  But not to fear, Raul Castro will remain the head of the Communist Party in Cuba which runs everything anyway.  But there will be a new face at the helm, a man who wasn’t even born when, as the Cubans always say, “the triumph of the Revolution” occured.  It will be interesting.

Castro Diaz CanelRaul when on the international, diplomatic stage, always dressed in a business suit, but when addressing the Cuban people he appeared in his military uniform.  Cuba is, after all, a military dictatorship.  The likely successor is  Miguel Diaz-Canel,  57, trained as an electronics engineer, but like many Cubans did something totally different than that for which he was trained.  He spent 30 years working his way up through the party to be the number-two man, in effect Raul Castro’s vice president and the second in command of the military, although he never appears in a military uniform, unlike his boss.  Sometimes when Raul was challenged by the Revolutionary elite he would say, “I am not my brother.”  In the case of the rapprochement with the U.S., Fidel had made clear that it was not his idea.  So maybe the fact that Diaz-Canel never appears in a uniform is a way of stating hat he is not Raul.

DSC_0227My sense is that while younger Cubans have great respect for “the triumph of the Revolution,” and the Castros, and the good things that have resulted from the Revolution, and face it, there have been some good things, younger Cubans are ready to turn the page and move on.  Make no mistake about it: Cubans are in love with Americans.  Maybe not the U.S. government, and certainly not with Donald Trump, but with ordinary Americans, the neigbhors next door, ordinary Cubans are in love with US.  Sure, they’d all like to hop on a plane and visit the U.S., maybe not to stay, but to take home as much of the culture, and commercial junk as they can.  Of course with China on the verge of stepping into the vacuum, they may get more commercial junk from China than they can possibly imagine!

My take is that there is a great vacuum in Cuba and someone is going to step in and fill that vacuum. The likely suspects are the Russia (yet again), China, or the U.S. neighbors next door.  The choice is ours.

PEARL MIST was the second ship to go to Cuba from the U.S. after Obama opened the door, and I have been on every trip except the first.  I think something like 15 trips, and in that time, about two years, there have been some interesting changes.

First, Cuba has just introduced ATM machines.  They only work for Cuban banks.  Due to the two hundred plus prohibitions of the U.S. Embargo there can be no financial interactions.  So the ATMs are new and Cubans are literally struggling to figure them out.

DSC_0238Second, there is a lot more begging for money, hand lotion, soap (they figured out this stuff is pretty easy for cruise passengers to come by), and a lot of this has been encouraged by well-meaninging U.S. Americans, some of whom genuinely want to share, and others of whom just like to strutt their stuff and get a kind of kick out of throwing what they don’t want to people in real need.  It’s a tough line to walk, and I keep urging the cruise line to come up with a way that folks can help in a way that is genuine and still respectful of the Cuban people and culture.

Third, and I’m sorry, but this is really sad.  One of the great things Obama did was to get Raul to open up Cuba to the Internet.  Now don’t think that everyone has Internet.  Less than 5% of Cuban homes have Internet.  No Mc Donald’s or Starbucks with free wi-fi.  But there ARE hot spots in the plazas, along Havana’s famed Malecon, some of the pedestrian streets in Santiago de Cuba.  These aren’t free.  You buy an Internet card with the tourist money. [There are two currencies in Cuba.  The local currency of the people, the CUP, each worth roughly the equivalent of 4 U.S. cents, and the tourist currency called the CUC which although it actually costs U.S. tourists 87 cents for one CUC, is roughly the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.]  So one hour of Internet access costs 1 CUC or the equivalent value of 1 U.S. dollar.  In a country where the average Cuban only makes the equivalent of U.S. $24 a month, Internet access is no bargain!  Yet Cubans are addicted already!

DSC_0226Wherein the past, in the cool of the evening, folks would gather along Havana’s famed Malecon seawall, known fondly as “the world’s largest sofa,” singing, socializing, drinking, sharing with friends, they now sit with their faces glued to their smart phones!  Same story in the cities great plazas.  Everyone under 50 sitting staring at their phones.  Texting is replacing talking.

So now what?  It will be an interesting week.  There’s a great article in THE TELEGRAPH, “Cuba prepares for life after the Castros.” And if you are thinking of seeing Cuba, now is the time to go!  And by the way, going on a monster ship that spends a few hours in Havana is NOT seeing Cuba.  No way  Jose!