Exploring and Living in Cuba

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Monday, 26 December 2016 11:08

El Viejo y el Mal

The title of this article is word play on the title of Hemingway’s prize winning novel, "El Viejo y El Mar." In this case the translation of the title is “The Old Man and Evil,” referring to the legacy of the late Fidel Castro.

As a result of Castro’s dictatorship Cuba is truly an impoverished country locked in a time warp, where the average monthly salary hovers around $25 dollars and where there is no real freedom of expression, opportunities, dissent or human rights. Many of those who clamor for change are imprisoned. Because of this situation fifteen percent of the islands citizens are in exile in an effort to make a better life for themselves. The revolution was really about Fidel and his socialistic vision and not the Cuban people. He created a system of educated people who had little hope of getting ahead in life. I must admit that the man was a political genius to be able to stay in power for almost 50 years.

The government that Fidel left to his brother does have its supporters among some of those who have lived under the system all of their lives and who do not know nothing else.

However, as I have alluded to in many of my articles, there is no reason to lose hope. Raúl has made some cosmetic changes but democracy and real change has yet to occur. Given the events of the last few years, I feel positive about the country moving in the right direction. But the million dollar question is, How long will the process take?

It is hoped that with the improved relations with the U.S., more widespread and accessible Internet and an influx of new ideas, once again Cuba will regain its spendor as “The Pearl of the Caribbean.” I am betting that it will.

Published in Living in Cuba
Sunday, 16 October 2016 13:24

Historic Day for Cuban Soccer

First baseball, then diplomacy and now soccer or fútbol as it is known in the Spanish speaking world. After nearly 70 years the U.S. and Cuba played a friendly soccer match or partido amistoso. The U.S. played Cuba in World Cup qualifiers in 2008, and the two teams have since met in the Gold Cup, but this was the first friendly match between them since 1947. In that year, when the two countries enjoyed normal relations and before Fidel Castro’s ascent to power, the Cuban team prevailed by a score of 5-2.

On March 22, 2016 Barack Obama and Raúl Castro attended an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban all star team and a professional team from the U.S. Sports have always played a role in normalizing strained diplomatic relationships between long-time adversaries.

This time instead of a baseball game it was a soccer match that helped the two countries mend their fences.

It was expected that the U.S. would humiliate Cuba with their superior team since Cuba is ranked 139 and the U.S. 22nd according to the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

The game took place at Havana’s Pedro Marrero Stadium was played amid a backdrop of thawing political relations between the two countries as they work towards normalizing relations. The field that in no way resembled a playing surface where an international match should have been played. The unpredictable bounce made ball-control difficult, contributing to a forgettable first half. In fact, the field was in such bad shape that the U.S. Coach worried that one of his players might get injured. As one reporter said, the bumpy, dusty, hard, uneven and altogether unplayable surface made it impossible to forge anything remotely resembling international-level soccer".

Both Cuba and the U.S. had opportunities to score during an uneventful first half. In the second half the team from the United States came to life and lived up to its potential — winning 2-0 with goals by Chris Wondoliwsky and Julian Green in a game that will certainly not be part of any soccer highlight films.

The unspectacular game, however, was a showcase for Cuban players, some of whom would like to play internationally as the sport grows.

The U.S. team now has focus on preparing for its upcoming World Cup qualifying game against Mexico on November 11.

Published in News about Cuba
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