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?

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[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.