Cuba, part XI: They are happy—despite everything

It’s seems to be a part of the southerners’ psyche not to worry much about earthly matters and concentrate on “more important” things in life. I’ve seen this same attitude in Spain and Italy where people don’t tend to worry at all and rather have smiles on their faces—no matter what hardships they might encounter.

And I think that there’s a very good reason for this southerners’ psyche. Wouldn’t anyone be much happier when one had constant sunshine? Every day, all day. Sun gives you energy and every-day happiness. What is there to worry about when the sun is shining, the air is hot and the sea is warm like chicken soup?

Most Cubans are indeed happy. Or they hide their misery very well. But I think they are happy. Most of them are very friendly and well wishing; they smile constantly and wish tourists “happy holidays”.

Cubans (and most southerners for that matter) seem to be the kind of people who think about singing and dancing, strolling along a promenade with their loved ones, playing baseball in parks… Grown-up men gather in parks in late evenings to argue very loudly about baseball and how their favourite teams are faring in local championships. They don’t really care that they don’t get properly paid for their work or that they have to stand in long queues to get food on the table. They don’t care that they have no political freedoms and that their country is governed by a dictatorship. They think happiness is elsewhere than in freedom and money. Who knows, they might be right—for them.

I think this Cuban psyche is also the reason why the current regime has for 40 years done nothing other than making everyone’s lives miserable and it’s still in power. These people, afraid or not, are too happy with everything else to rise against the regime, to come to the streets and protest and possibly overthrow the regime. It’s not how they function. They go with the flow and find joy in small every-day details that perhaps we the northerners have forgotten about.

Of course, that psyche is also part of the reason why former Spanish colonies (and Spain itself, for that matter!) are so prone to being governed by dictatorships. Many Latin-American countries have suffered and some actually are still suffering from them. If people find their joy and happiness elsewhere than freedom and democracy, they are less likely to care who governs them and that makes it much easier for dictators to emerge in these nations. Of course, it’s sad for us to see such developments, but perhaps it is part of these peoples’ natural course.

Of course, some Cubans can also be utterly annoying. For example people, salespeople in Trinidad are extremely pushy and they don’t want to take “no” for an answer. But I’m sure it’s possible to get used to constant offers and just turn oneself off.

An interesting fact is also that there’s very little crime in Cuba. Books say it’s rising and that now and then, tourists may fall victim of petty theft, but nevertheless Cuba is relatively safe for locals and tourists alike. Partly it’s because there’s an enormous police presence almost everywhere. But it also might be because a regular Cuban may be poor, but not dishonest. Honour has always been a part of the southern lifestyle. It doesn’t, of course, mean that there are no criminals in Cuba. But the sad fact is, many of them are “criminals” rather than criminals—people who have dared to think differently from the regime, and perhaps talked too much.

Cuba is definitely worth visiting. Once in a lifetime is perfectly enough though, already because of the fact that there are almost 200 countries on earth and most of them have plenty to explore and experience.

The most famous Cuban is not Fidel Castro. Nor Andy Garcia. The most famous Cuban is the old lady with a cigar. She sits next to El Bodeguita near the cathedral and makes a fortune, charging every tourist who wants her photo CUC1. And every self-respecting tourist does.

The most famous Cuban is not Fidel Castro. Nor Andy Garcia. The most famous Cuban is the old lady with a cigar. She sits next to El Bodeguita near the cathedral and makes a fortune, charging every tourist who wants her photo CUC1. And every self-respecting tourist does.

Best friends.

Best friends.

A day at the "beach". Only 90 miles north from here is freedom.

A day at the "beach". Only 90 miles north from here is freedom.

A Cuban lady.

A Cuban lady.

A Cuban gentleman.

A Cuban gentleman.

Baseball is an important part of Cuban life. One can see children playing it almost everywhere.

Baseball is an important part of Cuban life. One can see children playing it almost everywhere.

This gentleman with a huge cigar and an even bigger beard also charges for posing for photos. If he sees that he's being photographed, that is.

This gentleman with a huge cigar and an even bigger beard also charges for posing for photos. If he sees that he's being photographed, that is.

Soldiers preparing to lay a wreath at Jose Martí monument in Havana.

Soldiers preparing to lay a wreath at Jose Martí monument in Havana.

 

This concludes the Cuban series.

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