I went to Havana, Cuba way (way) back in 2003, over sixteen (16) years ago. Oh, my.
At the urging of my good friend and roommate, Tina Patterson, I went along with a tour group on a ‘cultural exchange’ pass from US State Department to attend the Havana/Latin America Film Festival – that was the “loophole” as travel was otherwise prohibited for US citizens.
I took along my buddy Patrick (Jai Gopal) and we stayed for about a week, as I recall, at the Havana Hilton, where Fidel Castro decamped when he took over the country from Batista. It was an amazing experience. Once-in-a-lifetime.
We spent about a week in Havana and another couple days in Pinar Del Rio. It was one of those life changing trips for me, unlike any other I had previously experienced.
Traveling to a socialist country, where there is no corporate advertising filling up the visual landscape was a drastic change to what I was visually adjusted to in American life. Advertising here is all around you all day long. It’s impossible to escape.
It’s in travel moments like this where I realized where we all live is a matter of latitude and longitude — there are thousands of ways and cultures where people live different than Americans do.
I’m also a huge Ernest Hemingway fan. So getting to visit his famous landmarks (bars and hotels) and his house, Finca Veija and see his boat The Pilar, was amazing. I never thought I would do such things.
In recent years, Fidel Castro has since passed. President Obama loosened some travel restrictions in 2014 (although our current President Donald Dump rolled them back). The Rolling Stones played a gig there, too. Time passed. Not much stays the same. But same things do in Cuba.
If you ever get the opportunity to travel to Cuba, I highly recommend it.