The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, May 17, 2002  

Consider Cuba: Socialist Paradise--With Great Hookers

If you’re thinking about a trip overseas, why not consider Cuba? It’s nearby, it has the allure of the forbidden, the Yankee dollar goes a long way there, and, as we learn from Cuba Solidarity, the prostitutes will show you one helluva good time.

In order to circumvent U.S. laws to get there and spend money (an act that is illegal under the Trading With The Enemy Act), you will probably need some advice. Thankfully, the kind-hearted people at Cuba Solidarity offer tips for those considering the trek.

First off, if you’re worried about how your bourgeois American ass will be received the locals, forget about it! “Every year some 200,000 people travel from the U.S. to Cuba,” Cuba Solidarity reports. “In addition to a warm welcome, they have a chance to experience an entirely different way of life -- a socialist society built on human solidarity, one virtually without rape, homelessness, illiteracy or advertising.”

The claim that Cuban society is free of the crime of rape is so pathetic, so obviously false, as to not deserve comment. As for there being no homelessness or illiteracy in Cuba, we would just mention that those are relative terms. After all, Generalissimo-For-Life Fidel Castro can read, but his three- and four-hour harangues don’t exactly provide evidence that the man is particularly well-read. And “no advertising”? Big deal. When you have nothing to sell why bother wasting money on billboards or TV spots?

According to Cuba Solidarity, the opportunity to experience “a socialist society built on human solidarity” is the reason the U.S. government has placed restrictions on travel to the island paradise. The government doesn’t want American to “see for themselves both that Cuba’s made tremendous accomplishments and that all the propaganda about ‘a grim Communist dictatorship’ is a lie,” the group asserts.

The second reason? “[B]ecause you’ll have an incredible time. Making friends and dancing with Cubans -- thanks to their socialist revolution the most cultured, conscious and human people anywhere -- is sure to turn you into a stuanch [sic] opponent of the U.S. government’s hostile stance.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

Since we will be among the first to concede that our political opponents on the right and left are both “conscious” and “human,” we are bewildered by this statement.

Helpfully, Cuba Solidarity suggests visiting American tone it down: “[V]isitors certainly are welcome. But here’s brief mention that Cubans in general aren’t overwhelmingly thrilled by tourism, though they recognize that it’s economically necessary. Thanks to unequal access to valuable tourist dollars, tourism introduces inequality into a society that values equality more than anywhere in the world. Plus -- as we all know -- some tourists are jerks.” As are many left-wing political activists.

Oddly adopting the stance of the prototypical capitalist, Cuba Solidarity turns this observation into a selling point: “All the more reason to go with a group and come as a visiting fellow human being instead of as a consumer/tourist.” We’re not sure what to make of this. “A visiting fellow human being” is somehow different from a “consumer/tourist”?

Many other benefits come from traveling with Cuba Solidarity: “[O]rganized trips are the best way to fully enjoy and appreciate Cuba….You’ll be able to get into places like hospitals, farms, factories or schools that you usually can’t wander around in no matter what country you’re in.”

Hmm…Sick people, cow manure, toxic emissions, and screeching school children. Now that sounds like a vacation!

Cuba Solidarity recommends that prospective visitors to Cuba do their homework before the trip. An important point, no doubt, given that Cuba is a society “virtually without…illiteracy.” But don’t read just anything, the group warns:

“You’ll have a much richer experience if you read as much as you can about Cuba and its history before traveling there. Unless you want to arrive sure of your superior knowledge of a country you’ve never visited, avoid the smug dreck of cynical Americans currently making money by being travel writers with the real story (Christopher Hunt’s “Waiting for Fidel” is one example, though hardly the worst. P[.]J[.] O’Rourke’s writings are breath-takingly [sic] shallow and cynical.)”

We find ourselves uncomfortably in agreement with Cuba Solidarity on that last point about O’Rourke, but the group loses us when it follows up with this recommendation: “Best thing to read is material by actual Cubans, certainly including Fidel Castro.” Oh, God. Surely they're not serious.

Cuba Solidarity patronizingly cautions prospective visitors that Cuba is “a Third World country.” Take heed -- this is not intended as an insult. “That’s what makes the accomplishments of Cuba’s socialist revolution so impressive. In the rest of the Third World more than 30,000 people -- mainly children -- are killed by poverty every day ... all for easily preventible [sic] reasons like non-existent health care or water treatment.”

Continuing the lecture, “Illiteracy is a vast plague, especially for women. But in Cuba...well, as the billboard says [Ed.: Wait, we thought there was no advertising in Cuba?] [,] ‘Two hundred million children sleep in the streets every night -- not one of them is Cuban.’” The connection between illiteracy and sleeping on the street is, we admit, completely lost on us.

Rest assured that upon arriving in Cuba you will find a population that celebrates its current political and social structure. When discussing the highlights of Havana, Cuba Solidarity doesn’t mention sunny beaches or wonderful restaurants. No…It sticks with the political agenda: “Havana: In the last national election -- where 98% of the people voted -- only 400,000 of a population of 11 million spoiled their ballots or otherwise spat at the revolution. But two hundred thousand of such anti-revolutionary ballots were cast in Havana.” The message here, we suppose, is “Watch out for counter-revolutionaries!” Cuba Solidarity is apparently blissfully unaware of the notorious “block committees” that are employed by the Communist Party to ensure a massive turn-out at the polls.

All that aside, however, “The capital city is 500 years old, the biggest in the country, and wonderful. You could happily spend weeks (or the rest of your life) there.” Would that Cuba Solidarity’s camaraderie with the happy Havanans were sufficient to spark their permanent migration to the island, but alas, creature comforts do count for something.

Now, Cuba is not a perfect society, as even this group will concede. There are problems with swindlers, beggars, and prostitutes, but the fault for this lies not in Cuba, but in the U.S. Moreover, Cuban prostitutes will give you a much better time! (Another selling point for the group’s tours, we suppose.)

“Likewise you shouldn’t be shocked to see apparent [sic] prostitutes in tourist areas in Havana. They don’t function on the utterly degraded twenty-dollar/three-minute level of prostitutes in the United States -- an evening of dancing and a good meal, a tip [sic!], and sometimes who-knows-maybe-something-else is the program -- but their existence is not a good thing. Blame the oppression of all Third World nations and -- additionally for Cuba -- Washington’s crushing blockade…plus capitalism’s promotion of the illusion that happiness lies in getting money to purchase commodities.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

Sadly, we apparently have missed out on all but one of the spring tours organized by Cuba Solidarity. These included, among others: the Footsteps of the Revolution tour, the Marin Interfaith Task Force Environmental tour, the Seventh International Conference on African and Afro-American Culture, another on Public Health in Cuba, and a trip focused on examining the Latin American School of Medicine and Cuban Medical System.

The worst news, however, is that we missed the “Celebrate May Day in Cuba” junket, which ran from April 27 to either May 6 or May 11 (the duration apparently depending upon how long one can tolerate the insufferable tour guides and fellow travelers along for the trip).

But there’s still time to catch the Sustainable Agriculture tour, from May 18 to May 26, during which one can “learn about Cuba’s unprecedented conversion to organic agriculture.”

Don’t miss it!

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