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Community & Clubs: Cultural trip to Cuba a flashback to 1950s

October 23, 2012|By Jim de Boom | By Jim de Boom
(Courtesy JIM DE…)

In the past, once a year I deviate from my usual Community & Clubs column for the Thanksgiving Turkey of the Year column and with this column, I will deviate again.

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A trip to Cuba

I was among a group of 65 who flew on a charter flight from Los Angeles International Airport direct to Havana, Cuba, for an eight-day People to People mission sponsored by the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce for which my wife, Barbara, serves as the chief executive.

Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands and has a population of 11.4 million with a birth rate of 1.4 per family. The weather while we were there was in the 90s in the day time with 85% to 90% humidity daily. The temperature would drop after the daily rain and was usually in the 70s in the early morning. The splendor of mountain and coastal regions stood out along with the lush green landscapes and farmland and Spanish architecture in the cities we visited.

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Cuba is untouched by commercialism. There are no McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Starbucks. The only billboards extol the virtues of socialism and celebrate the long past revolution and its heroes.

Cuba appears to be frozen in the 1950s with American cars like Chevies, Fords, Plymouths, Studebaker, Nash, etc. from 1959 or before dotting the roads. Most are in great shape and would be valuable collector items in the U.S., but are work vehicles for Cubans. Newer cars (1990s) are from Russia and in need of repair. If you don't have a car, the method of transportation would be oxen drawn carts, scooters, cargo vans, buses, truck buses or by foot. There are a lot of people waiting for a ride along all roads. Locals can make some money if they pick up a person or two who is willing to pay to get their destination.

We started and ended our trip in Havana, staying at former Hilton Hotel that was due to open in 1959, months before the revolution. Havana is a city stuck in 1959. Few building were built after the revolution, and few have been renovated. We spent two nights at an all-inclusive beach front resort built in the 1990s along a 10-mile stretch of a white sandy beach with newer resorts in both directions. Canadians and Europeans are regular visitors to the resorts beginning in November through April.

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