CUBA by Penelle 2015(c)
Cuba isn't a place one "sees" it is a place to "be." My journeys to this remarkable country began a few years ago under the auspices of The Dwight D. Eisenhower, People-to-People Ambassador programs for peace. I found a country for which only one word serves; soul.
There is a long history that breathes in the land; from Spanish Conquest with its negative impact on indigenous tribes and its use of slave trade to the conqueror’s enforcement of education and promotion of artistic expression in architecture, music and painting. Cubans are imbued with a memory as old as the European Crusades and yet as up to date as the latest rhythm. They are unspoiled by, and sometimes unconscious, of their rich character. From the island’s early days Cuba has experienced an increasing and ongoing heritage of nationalism and literary excellence, of philosophic thought and respectful manners. Figures of history live on - names like Hatuey, Cespedes and Gomez, Antonio Maceo and Jose Marti, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Amidst all of its variety, four gorgeous mountain ranges (Pico Torquino standing the highest mountain in the Caribbean) and lush forests draped in cloud, fertile valleys to rugged coastline, bone dry desert to drenching tropical storm, it is the people who prevail. The people are its wealth: enduring spirit, world famous interpreters of Jazz, colorfully artistic on canvas and cloth, clever agriculturalists, undemanding but spirited children, and ageless lovers of poetry and prose.
Cuba and the United States share a history, some of it bitter, some of it good. But mankind is caring. Mutual ties need not be denied and the future beckons us forward. In the outskirts of Havana, John Lennon is remembered for his compositions. You can sit next to his bronze statue, happily gazing at him, eye to eye. You can walk the Hemingway trail and discuss ideas with the lithe, eager citizens. You can drink in the visual beauty around you and hear the muses of poet Nicolas Guillen. You can seek out Cuban cowboys or Morgan's Buccaneers and buried treasure or investigate the castles, cathedrals and schools. Visit an UNESCO preservation site or townships such as Camaguey, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Pinar del Rio, and you will never run out of discoveries.
Today an educated, thoughtful, talented and hardworking people strive to improve and safeguard their country. Changes will come. Greater influx of capital can repair an aging infrastructure, provide for needed goods, and permit greater livelihood and mobility for families. However a worry lurks that change will ruin what works well now or that the society will stratify. Time will tell. The art of change is being sculpted. Cuba is indeed a living entity, whose pulse is joy even when the heart is heavy. I love the spirit that I know of Cuba and pray that the future will be kind to it.