Are the Beaches the Solution to Cuba’s Poverty?

Is Cuba’s beauty the solution to bettering the lives of its citizens?

Just look at the water and the sand and the sun.  The island is long, and narrow.  The Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean flank Cuba, offering up some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

This is good, right?

Today, the Cuban people share this beauty with only a small number of sail boats and a few tourists in space nearly undisturbed by commerce.

Cuba is, in some respects, comparable to the Cancun of 40 years ago.  Having traveled there several times, I have watched the seashore change from open land with a scattering of 2 and 3 story hotels, (as pictured below adjacent to a Cuban beach) to high rise hotels that are packed one on top of another until only the tourists share the beauty.  Today, Cuba’s resort hotels are still lovely, small and in harmony with the sea.

The walkways to the sea draw you to the water and the sand.

As we were ending our trip to Cuba, we encountered a member of another tour that had just arrived.  This gentleman explained his theory that what Cuba needs is to open itself up to investors who could bring in casinos and “a Trump Tower like Panama” to provide jobs for poor workers.  Seriously?  Cubans should be excited to have its beauty snapped up by rich “Americans” [1] so that they can earn minimum wage.  Again, seriously?

I am no fan of Cuban’s economic or political system.  I would never wear a Che t-shirt or hat.  I remember the brutality of revolution.  But surely there is more to solving the challenges of the Cuban people than to provide tourists with luxury vacations.

I am grateful for the couple of hours we spent by the water because it was such a compelling visual statement to the true beauty of Cuba’s beaches and was a reminder of the role of the beaches in the challenges facing the island nation in the inevitable post-Castro era.

Swim anyone?


[1]  I asked our guide why the Cubans speak of the United States as “America”.  He indicated that they have accepted the reality that the United States as the dominant nation in the Americas has essentially assumed the term America as its own.


2 responses to “Are the Beaches the Solution to Cuba’s Poverty?

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed your series on Cuba. I would love to visit, but I understand that if I and all others wishing the same were to do so, the American entrepreneur whom you describe above would completely change the the land, the sea, and the people. Is there a way to find a comfortable if not happy medium between the poverty of the people as Cuba is now and the accessibility of visitors to their beautiful island? History suggests there is not. Sigh. I will do the good people a favor and stay home, enjoying your pictures and descriptions instead. Thank you for your gift.

  2. I agree with your concern that by the time Cuba is truly open for tourists, Cuba will have changed dramatically. However if you want to experience Cuba during the Castro era, there are trips available through local chambers of commerce, museums, photographic organizations and schools. There are significant limitations involved in participating on these tours. We had virtually no free time and our days were filled with visits to cultural centers, museums, and other similar activities. Terry and I were more than willing to live within the rules of the tour. It provided the type of experience we were looking for. You would love it.

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