The real Bizarre in Cuba

34 Responses to “The real Bizarre in Cuba”


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  1. Raul Ramos y Sanchez says:

    I was pleasantly surprised at the NY Times criticism of the Travel Channel piece. The Gray Lady usually views Castro's long history of human rights violations as minor indescretions.

    The Travel Channel's depiction of Cuba is unfortunately consistent with the view by most Americans who remember visiting the island. To them, it was a tropical Las Vegas, a wide open party town where you checked your inhibitions at the door. Like today's visitors to Vegas, the tourists had little interest in the lives of the locals.

    This show was produced in that same tradition of self-centered indifference, an ethos that says: "Just make sure my mojito is cold and my mulata is hot."

  2. Jackie says:

    Thanks, Carrie. We don't get cable anymore so I wasn't able to watch the show…now, I'm kind of glad.


  3. Melek says:

    Bravo Carrie!

    Andrew's Travel Channel research team could have done a better job!

    It's bizarre to state that this program was not political! It may not have been Andrew's intention, but the lauding of the Cuban revolution, Che and Cuba's totalitarian system oozed through the entire show! It was an excellent propaganda tool & bait for the Castro regime to promote tourism. And unfortunately, just as they do today … many apathetic/selfish tourists will enjoy this beautiful island which would be "paradise" to them, while Cubans (other than those who are part of the elite and apologists of the Castro regime) wish they were foreign in their native country, just to enjoy the same things … :(

    Ignorance is bliss!

    I wish you well :) Melek

    "Ignorance, apathy, and lethargy cause the most problems in our world. People don’t know what’s going on, they don’t care, and they’re too lazy to find out." ~ M. Masukawa

  4. Val Prieto says:

    …if what would come to pass would be Americans living Zimmerns experience — using Cuba as some beautiful whore they can use, pay off and walk away from — forget it.

    That is exactly what has been happening since castro "opened" up Cuba in the early nineties. It's exactly what's happening today and is exactly what will happen should all travel restrictions be lifted. To believe otherwise, despite the overwhelming evidence is idealistic at best, naive at worst.

  5. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Val, sadly, I am an optimist. It is what bites me in the ass often. Can't seem to shake it though.
    Indeed, muchos turistas have been enjoying the fat of the land while the Cubans get thinner and thinner.

    Raul, best line: "Just make sure my mojito is cold and my mulata is hot.''

    Jackie, Melek…ah si…

  6. Val Prieto says:

    I suppose tho, that most of Cuba's youth can relate to Zimmern. Ask any one of them what they want to be and the answer will always be "A Tourist."

  7. Val Prieto says:

    Oh, and Raul,

    Cuba hasnt been a "tropical " las Vegas ever. It was an island with FOUR casinos. Most Americans remember Cuba as place where Americans owned businesses, a place where they could take the family to the best beaches in the Caribbean, a country very much like the US, in terms of a working middle class and a strong economy.

    "The Godfather" is not an accurate or historic depiction of the real Cuba pre-castro.

  8. Javier says:

    I've tried to make the case as to why it was wrong for Mr. Zimmern to air this dog and pony show and ignore the brutality that is Cuba.

    I have had limited effect.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Carrie en Cuba hay hambre ahora mas que nunca, pero siempre se han comido a las jutias, eso de la cascara de platanos cocinada fue en la gran crisis de los 90, no ahora y las prostitutas tan baratas como el precio de un lipstick tampoco, un poquito mas caras,con todo lo demas que has escrito estoy de acuerdo.gracias

  10. Raul Ramos y Sanchez says:

    Val, my impression of U.S. travelers to Cuba before Castro has come from many unsolicited comments from people who expressed exactly the sentiments I conveyed — that Cuba was an adult playground. This is usually said in a wistful tone when they discover I am Cuban. While there may have been a wholesome, family-oriented contingent of Americans who went Cuba for its pristine beaches, I have yet to meet one. In fairness, I won't say they don't exist. All the same, I did not gain my insights about U.S. tourists from Hollywood.

  11. Clara says:

    Carrie, I agree with you entirely. There's at least some comfort in knowing that the major U.S. media at least recognize the issue. For many (frustrating) years they kept their blinders on, speaking of the "wonderful socialist experiment that is Cuba," etc. etc.

  12. Melek says:

    Mr. Ramos y Sanchez,

    I was one of the lucky winners of your book America Libre, at Tiki Tiki Blog … it arrived this week … it's next on my reading list … can't wait!

    I wish you well :) Melek

    "Talent is a gift that brings with it an obligation to serve the world, and not ourselves, for it is not of our making." ~ Jose Marti

  13. Oyá says:

    Why can't anything in Cuba just be about the culture, the food or the music? Everyone knows the political situation in Cuba, so why bring it up? Do we have to revel in all that is negative and ignore what is good? Does everything about Cuba automatically have to be about politics? There are bad things and good things here too, same as in Cuba. There is nothing wrong in producing a program that chooses to showcase the unparalleled culture that Cuba has. Believe me, I understand the pain felt by so many of us…the anger, y todo, but I wonder, how many of us here actually grew up in Castro's Cuba? I came here, by myself and in my twenties at the time of the crisis. Yes, I am saddened by what I have seen when I have gone back to visit, and yes, it is weird to me because it's my country, but it's not my country. But I can tell you that as much as people struggle with the day to day, they have a spirit that can never be broken. I don't think that constitutes showcasing Cubans as "happy slaves."
    I don't condone or defend the regime and I am not a communist, but I think it's time we start to change our thinking. Es tiempo de cambiar el odio por el amor.

  14. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Oya, I totally agree with you that we must change our hearts and that it all doesn't have to be about politics.

    But, the way the show was written is editorially shameful. As the NYT review said, it failed to connect the dots. It upset my journalistic bones as much as it upset my Cuban-American kid ones.

    You and I know about Cuba, but perhaps the average viewer of that show came away with it: "Gee, it's not so bad."

    Not so bad until you try to speak your heart, or seek your own path.

    I don't know if it is possible to do a program about Cuba and ignore politics because politics dominates every segment of life there — from food to art.

    How could you showcase cuisine and breathtaking natural resources and not spell it out for the viewer that the delights for the tourist are illegal or unavailable for the native?

    Not sure if you are new here…so, you are right, I did not grow up in Cuba. My connection is through my family and through the trips I made there as a journalist, niece, cousin.

    Overall, that episode came off to me in very, very poor taste both from an editorial point of view, and a cubanita point of view.

  15. catherine1130 says:

    Great post, Carrie. Couldn't have said it better myself. Like Raul Ramos, I was completely surprised with the NYT article. Major shocker…

    I understand that the show isn't politically-oriented and that its focus is on travel, but like you said (ever-so-correctly) there is no way to ignore the political situation. Doesn't it bother people to think that there was only tourist there and 0 natives…(unless they were working of course). I went to NY and I went to all the tourist traps and even then I met New Yorkers that weren't working. They were there enjoying the same things I was enjoying. When I have visited other countries, I always met people that had the freedom to enjoy all the same amenities. Why is it that every time I go to Cuba's beaches or anywhere else, the only natives I meet are employees?

    You can't film the show and ignore the political factor that dominates the very same place where you are. Everything doesn't "automatically be about politics", but let's just be editorially aware and address the pink elephant in the room.

    Thanks for the post, Carrie. Sadly, the show was as bizarre as I expected it to be.

  16. La'Tonya Richardson says:

    Wow! I wanted to give you a high five! Not only did I read your words, but I felt them.

    I came to your site via Blogalicious. Very enlightening.

  17. Abuela says:

    Well,well, here we go, yes my dear, after 50 years we still have to put up with Americans that go to Cuba and don't see what really is going on.
    Before 59 we were a country ahead of our time,to those who think Cuba was a whore house from one end to the other are sadly mistaken, but not to worry,Obama will soon open the flood gates and the rest will be history,and tell me, do you think Juanes singing for La Paz, instead of Libertad is going to help Cubans?
    Shame,shame, to think that we need to change, el odio por el amor, lo siento, pero si a mi ese maldito desgobierno me mata a mi padre,o pasa 30 años en la carcel, ni aunque pasen 100 años no habria amor.

  18. Oyá says:

    Carrie I understand what you are saying and I guess that in your line of work you would probably have a different view than me. I see that I am the only dissenting voice here…while I don't agree with everything said here, I think it's great that we live in a country where we can disagree and that's okay, tu sabes?

  19. Oyá says:

    To answer about the Americans that don't know what's really going on in Cuba…
    Do we ever know what's really going on in any country we visit? Do we ever really know what's going on in the country where we live?
    Por ejemplo, Mexico is an incredibly corrupt and poor country, yet tourists go there all the time. They stay in the fancy resorts, but where do the Mexicans live? In fancy houses eating nice food? I don't think so.
    Perhaps people don't really understand Cuba, but the people of Cuba are starting to see just how much their brothers and sisters 90 miles north really care about their happiness.

  20. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Oya, point taken about other countries. But, I can't compare poverty and backwards corruption with communism and lack of freedom of choice. If a Mexican person has the means he can travel, stay in fancy hotels, move out of the country.
    As bleak as life is for many Mexicans, an opportunity for personal freedom and upward mobility exists — not as greatly as in our country or in another developed country, but it exists.

    And yes, bravo, we can have this conversation in the open.

  21. Oyá says:

    Carrie, I don't know how many impoverished Mexicans would agree with you on that one. In theory, yes, the possibility for upward mobility exists, but in reality, if it comes, it very often comes through illegal means, much the same as in Cuba. I don't think freedom of choice = having upward mobility or money. Here's the thing…as you know, Cubans have relatives from the US visiting everyday. And they come back, and they show off their gold chains and their clothes and their money and they bring wonderful gifts. Well not everybody…the stories I could tell you about one of my uncles! Anyway, my point is our brothers and sisters come over to visit us and show off their stuff, but they also tell us how hard it is. Por ejemplo, we go from not having to pay for health care to having to pay for it. I think freedom of choice is a subjective thing. In Cuba we worry about food and basic things and in the US people worry about health care…I don't know which is worse.
    Sorry to ramble (obviously I'm no writer) but I would like to say another thing, that is kind of related. As a Cuban who was born, raised and spent most of my life there, I get frustrated when people tell me what it's like there. I like to think that those who live in a place have a better idea of what it's like to live and just exist there than those who don't.
    Thank you for letting me voice my opinion and being so respectful. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind (because I know on this issue it's impossible) but I just want to explain my experiences and my views.

  22. Oyá says:

    Carrie, I also wanted to ask where you got your information from. Many of the points you make are true, but a few of them are not. No one in my neighborhood was ever told to boil banana peels to pass as meat. In fact, I never remember anyone ever being told to do that. Except for during the crisis, I never went years without eating meat, and I never ate jutia as a substitute. No one really eats that except in the countryside, and even there it is considered rare. Eating jutia is something like the mambises ate when they were fighting you know? People who eat it now do that because they want to. You see, this what's wrong with the "dialogue" on Cuba. There are so many lies being passed on as fact.

  23. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Oya, indeed, those of us who haven't lived it can't, and shouldn't, tell it the way it is for an individual.
    From over here, my heart always has ached for those I know there, and newly arrived, who struggled so much and who have expressed desire to be the captain of their own life.

    My own newly arrived relatives have said they have traded some struggles for others, but they wouldn't trade the new freedom.

    For someone who isn't a writer or a native English speaker, you are communicating quite well.

    And, my policy here is that I will delete any comment that is unkind or unfriendly (even my own mother's!), so glad you don't feel slammed on for expressing the minority opinion. All opinions and open discussion welcome. Nasty and mean personal attacks are not.

  24. Oyá says:

    Lo siento…I'm sure I am annoying at this point.
    I forgot something…I think maybe a long time ago people were reported on for things like not marching in the May Day Parade, but that hasn't happened in years, probably decades. Believe it or not, there are average citizens who enjoy the May Day Parade. It is a big holiday in Cuba.
    Okay, okay…I promise not to bother any more.

  25. Oyá says:

    Thank you for your kind words Carrie. Jajaja…I work on my English a lot, but you know writing is very different from talking because I can stop and look things up! Plus, I studied English in school in Cuba.
    I really like your blog…I always think it's funny to find cubans spread out in the country, because we always think cubans, Miami! Jajaja!

  26. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Info from family there, family and friends who have immigrated recently, from my three visits there (1991, 1996, 1998) and news stories. Realize some is old, but still bizarre…jaja.

  27. Melek says:


    You're right about Cubans … in spite of 50+ years under a totalitarian & repressive regime, their spirit & inherent (I think genetically) "joi de vivre" prevails …

    In the real world, we can't discuss Cubans & Cuba and leave out politics … the sad reality of Cubans in the island is not a result of a natural disaster or lack of natural resources or industry, and so on … it's the result of the impact of the socialist/communist political (economic) system imposed by the Castro regime on the Cuban people.

    Even if we attempt to leave politics aside, from the moral perspective, how can we reconcile with the fact that while WE enjoy and even take for granted our Freedom, Cubans lack theirs?

    Andrew made a comment about all the vintage cars in Cuba and explained that this was a result of the US Embargo (which does not apply to humanitarian help/food/medicine) … but wait … how come we don't see cars from all the other car manufacturing countries in the world? After all, isn't the USA the only country which does not "directly" do business with Cuba? Basic things are not available to "ordinary" Cubans in the island because of the island's political (& thus economic)system.

    It's telling how some want and stipulate change towards Cuba from the outside, without requiring any change inside Cuba! If you really care and love Cubans, you would not be satisfied with watching "some" of them get dollars and things from their families & contacts in the US, instead, you would want ALL Cubans to have a fair shot and access to a better life, which can only begin with the Freedom to think and do what they want …for a socialist system which strive in equality, the opposite is so evident!!

    "In Cuba we worry about food and basic things and in the US people worry about health care…I don't know which is worse."

    Oya, from time to time from your words, it's hard to determine if you are actually in the US or in Cuba … but if you live in the US … you know that no one is refused health care at a hospital's emergency room … we also have Medicaid! Yes … maybe we need health care reform, but all things "Free" are not always better, nor are they "free" …

    Oya, I don't know you and I respect your opinion. However, you used the disclaimer line :
    "I don't condone or defend the regime and I am not a communist."

    For someone who makes that statement, I must say that you have done a great job justifying the reality of Cuba under communism. You remind me of my aunt, who would make statements like … "We can't find soap, but it's ok since we are exporting it …" ;)

    Oya, no need to worry though … With the easing of travel restrictions and elimination of the money Cubans in exile can send to their relatives in Cuba by this administration, a few lucky Cubans in the island prison can at least enjoy a little more their lives while in confinement … until parole comes in the form of a raft, lottery number, marriage to a foreigner (with luck), regime change or death …

    I wish you well :) Melek

    "Combined with the Freedom to do so, the will to succeed and prosper, or have everything handed to you, is the difference between wealth and poverty. Try, push hard and the rewards are there, sit on your butt and bemoan your plight and you will be handicapped all the rest of your life. It's a choice; Not mine! I choose to win, not lose. I choose to succeed, not fail. And the rewards are earned not given.” ~ Melek

  28. Abuela says:

    Melek,thanks for explaining things to Oya(nombre de Santo)otherwise my comment was going to be Delete.

  29. Melek says:

    LOL Abuela!

    Y yo con el despiste … pense que Oya es un nombre turco (ya que existe en Turquia, sin el acento) …lol!!! lo menos que me vino a la mente fue lo de santo … oops! english now … all along, I thought Oya was a Turkish name …

    I wish you well :) Melek

    "There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other." ~ D.H. Everett

  30. The Fearless Blog says:

    Bravo!!!!! The world needs more "truth writers" and less journalists and TV personalities perhaps? Why do so many continue to ignore the injustices in the world? Why do so many praise and accept that which is completely reprehensible?

    Worst of all, how can some in the United States still applaud Castro and the communist government there? Are they blind? Or are they simply empty of any humanity?

  31. Cubanita says:

    Great post, Carrie!
    I'm linking to it.

    I've read about the show, but knowing the business as I know it -and not being the optimistic you are – I kind of knew this was gonna be the usual stuff completely detached from the actual Cuban's reality.

    Maybe I am way too realistic, by I agree with Val. Not surprised at all.

    When even the NYT criticized it (since they are la mata, the cream of cream of MSM's editorial bias, it should be because it was wayyyyyy to far from reality.

    I am with Abuela on this; you know, mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo (No offense to the age of the Abuela, OK?) Digo yo…

  32. Melek says:

    Directly From Cuba: "Decadencia", by Eskuadrón Patriótico
    (In Spanish)

    I wish you well :) Melek

    "Man is not free to watch impassively the enslavement and dishonor of men, nor their struggles for liberty and honor." ~ Jose Marti

  33. Oyá says:

    Abuelita y Melek – agradezco sus comentarios, pero yo no necesito sus explicaciones sobre Cuba. Tengo una educación super fina y mis opiniones se basan de las experiencias de mi vida. Nuestros desacuerdos se basan en nuestras diversas experiencias.
    The Fearless Blog – no es necesario insultarme.
    Carrie – quizás debe suprimir mis posts. Mi intención no era ofender pero que será será…

  34. Carrie-in-TN says:

    Careful everybody…stay polite…let it rest.

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