Baracoa: Cuban New Years

What a totally different New Year’s Eve!
In Europe, New Year’s Eve is like the party of the year. I am used to celebrate the night with my friends, to have drinks, play games, dance, go crazy and enjoy beautiful fireworks at midnight. It has always been like that, and I have always been a New Year’s Eve- lover. Of course, I am also used to disappointments. The expectations for New Year’s eve are always very high and sometimes it doesn’t end up the way you thought it would (which happens often with parties that are announced to be ”the party of the year”). And this time, New Years was just a completely different holiday.

It stated off with an absolutely amazing dinner. My hosts Ana and20141231_192304 Ricardo, Ricardo’s mom and also the new guests from the Netherlands who had arrived and taken over my room (hmh) were also there. As the Dutch lady didn’t speak English or Spanish I had to be the translator. My job as a translator was funny and awkward at the same time as my Dutch is not that good. Anyways, we had fun. We listened to Frank Sinatra and had great conversations. The Dutch couple went to bed (the lady suddenly started crying and was super dramatic-ok..).

So yeah, then it was my hosts and me. We had some wines, beer and then watched some TV. This was the first time that I actually had access to a TV which seemed to work quite alright. There were maybe about 5 channels, colours! and the quality was not that bad. But still, it looked like those TV programmes they had in the 80s. We watched like a New Years program20141216_215702me. What you should also keep in mind that New Year’s is also the day of the revolution. So therefore, they celebrate the Ano Nuevo 2015, but also the 56 Ano de la revolucion.  So there were like revolution-spots with nostalgic music and clips of the revolution and military parades, etc. Oh and of course, a lot of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

We then went out to the city to see what’s going on. It was so nice to walk around with my hosts. No guy dared to make any annoying comments or sounds although I was wearing a dress.
Ricardo, Ana and the grandma were simply adorable. Super sweet. If you are in Baracoa, stay at their place, it is absolutely fantastic.
Anyways, in the city, there was nothing! No street party, nothing! People were at home, watching TV or listening to music. Ana and Ricardo explained to me that New Year’s Eve was a family holiday. Christmas is more the party holiday with fireworks, etc. I was really suprised.

So, we went back home and continued drinking and watching TV. Lots of neighbours also came over to wish us happy new year and I had really nice conversations with them. At midnight, we opened a bottle of sparkling wine which was nice, hugged each other and wished ”Feliz Ano Nuevo”. Outside, there were no fireworks. Only a couple of light balls in the air which was also pretty. Still, it was really weird. No noise, no party. And it was warm. What a different experience.

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We ended the night with more nice conversations, TV. and drinks. Even though I was a bit disappointed, I was also happy and didn’t mind the experience of a family New Year’s Eve.

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Cuba’s lost generation: Money or happiness?

I had a really nice chat with a Cuban couple in Baracoa that asked me to publish our conversation anonymously.  As much as I love Cuba and their different way of challenging the dominant mainstream world order, I acknowledge that the human rights situation regarding freedom of speech is difficult there. Let’s call my conversation partners Carla and Enrique.

Carla: I am really sorry to hear about the bad experiences you made with Cuban men. But I have to tell you honestly, that tourism has done this to our country. Before the country opened up to tourists, this wasn’t the case. Tourism has made the young generation lazy. Although people here have the opportunity to study for free at university, young people rather work as taxi drivers or try to rip tourists off in order to make money. Of course, it is a shame that doctors, teachers, etc. barely make any money. But anyways, you can see what happened to young people now. Money determines people’s lives. I mean, does it really make people happy to rip tourists off as a job? Is this an honourable profession? And also, it won’t go on like this forever. It is going to change one day.

Me: What do you think about the development of the internet? Computers, smartphones, etc.?

Carla: I heard that in Europe and the United States, people don’t communicate directly with each other anymore. I am scared that this could also become the case in Cuba if the internet will become more accessible. But the young generation here is simply amazed by every single thing that tourists have. They are fascinated by tourists and desperately want to have the same things they have. But Fidel Castro was right when he said that Cuba needs tourism and that it is important but also that it needs to be controlled and that there have to be limits. And it’s the same case with the internet.

Enrique: A big problem is also that people don’t work. They don’t want to work. As for them, working is not profitable. That’s why people work very slowly often and they don’t put much effort into their work. I also think that it is awful that people who don’t work as they simply don’t want to get full support by the government.

Carla: Some people don’t understand it. Work is not about money. It also should be something that you enjoy doing since it is a considerable amount of your lifetime. I love my job. I could retire already, but I love teaching. And I will continue doing it as long as I enjoy it. But well, the older the revolution gets, the more it seems to be forgotten. Young people don’t recognize the good aspects of it anymore which really is a shame.

She takes a short break, thinks for a bit and then continues

Carla: But you know Cindy, I can also not say that everybody is like that. There are some young people studying at universities and living on campus in their student dorms and they study very hard and when they meet then they meet with their fellow students in bars on campus or in their rooms. That’s why you might not be able to see those kind of young people as they simply don’t ‘’hang out’’ in the cities. So yeah, that’s why you happen to be in touch frequently with those horrible people who try to rip off tourists.

This conversation really made me think a lot. Were they right? Definitely.As much as I love the idea of socialism, it cannot be alright that a Taxi driver or a tourist guide makes more money than a doctor or teacher. By more money I don’t mean like a couple of euros more per hour, but actually about 4-times more. What would I do if I were Cuban? What would you do? Would you rather study at university for free the things you care about and to do the profession you love despite the fact that you won’t receive a lot of money for it? Or would you rather give up the opportunity to study and work in the tourist business in order to make more money?
Again: What is more important? Money or happiness? Is money happiness? Can happiness compensate for lack of money?

What is the transition in Cuba going to cause besides ‘wealth’ and ‘growth’? What will Cuba’s new generation be like? What happens if neo-liberal capitalism will be implemented in Cuba? A little piece of philosophy on the downside of capitalism  by Emile Durkheim, beautifully explained within this youtube channel. ”Modern economies put tremendous pressure on individuals (…) How can we create new ways of belonging? How can we take pressure off the individuals and find a more correct balance between freedom and solidarity?”

Emile Durkheim: Capitalism and suicide

Day 18:Yumuri, 14+ only!

I was so excited. I had booked a tour to the rain forest and to a little village outside of Baracoa. Most of the group were Germans and Italians. And as naïve as I am, I did not expect any rain. But duh, this was a trip to the rain forest. So it did rain a bit at the beginning. We did the ‘chocolate walk’ so our guide showed us the cocoa plants and explained stuff about it which was really nice.

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20141231_111350We then went to his grandmother’s house who is a cocoa farmer and she made hot chocolate for us and showed us how chocolate is made. We walked through the forest and then went to the ‘paso de los alemanes’. Afterwards, the highlight of the trip happened. We took a little taxi boat on the river to get to a little ‘island’ in the middle of the river. The water was absolutely beautiful and super clear and so we were able to swim there. It was fantastic and it was so nice to have nice chats with people. In the little village of Yumuri, loads of natives came and tried to make us buy ‘polymitas’, beautiful snails in different colours and they make jewellery out of it. DO NOT buy things made of polymitas! They are about to extinct and need to be protected. (see picture above)

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After the trip on the Yumuri River we went to a little empty beach- with black sand. It was completely beautiful, but the sea was quite wild and there were big rocks so it was not really possible to swim there. And there, I met the most disgusting guy ever. I know that I have complained a lot about how annoying Cuban guys are and the whole thing how they treat women. Well. This guy was from Canada. He was in his mid-forties and did not really look sexy or anything. He even wore a Canada baseball cap (why? WHYYY??) and typical tourist clothes. He was travelling alone, he doesn’t have any children, no family, etc. And the way he was talking was just disgusting. He complained about the ‘shitty’ job he had, the shitty weather in Canada, how shitty women were in Canada as they were rude when he tries to flirt with them and how much he hates shitty Christmas and New Year’s Eve. He hates his shitty apartment in Canada and that at the end of the month he barely has any money left. So, trips to Cuba are the only thing he can afford. Because here, he can be the king. Since 2009 he travelled to Cuba and he has a Cuban girlfriend in almost every city in Cuba. And then, he started complaining about how demanding Cuban women were. That they want presents from him, one of them wants a bike, the other one wanted a pig for New Year’s (a pig costs $40 CUC btw). I was disgusted. He complained about those women demanding stuff from him for sleeping with a disgusting and disrespectful Canadian guy. Then I told him about my experience with Cuban guys, and he completely defended them! He said that I should be more open-minded towards older men. Wtf? But well, I just wanted to get rid of him. I told one of the people from my group about what I had just experienced, and she said that in the plane when she was on the way from Germany to Havana she sat next to an old guy who was flying to Havana in order to marry his 35years younger Cuban girlfriend so that she would get his German pension.  How sad is that? I know that sex tourism is a global phenomenon, especially in South East Asia. But Cuba? I did not expect that.

So, I did some research. And I came across the blog naughty nomad where a guy shares his experience on how to ‘get laid’ in Cuba.

 If you’re the type that pays for sex, you’ll be in a heaven. But if you’re like me, Cuba can be a frustrating place. I honestly can’t think of a country where prostitution is so ingrained and pervasive in the culture. “You fuck, you pay. That’s Cuba,”

Also:

It really seemed like 80% of girls had a price tag. On one occasion, I even had a perfectly normal girl, walking hand in hand with her boyfriend, get in our car over the possibility of getting some pay for play. Sadly, this is what happens when the average salary is less than $25 a month. And under communism, finding a middle or upper class girl is like finding a Jew in Mecca.

Well I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that under communism girls are more likely to sell their bodies. As a political scientist I can tell you that you should not generalize concepts, such as communism.

Naughty nomad also explains that the police controls it really strictly when Cuban women (especially black Cuban women) walk closely together with a male tourist.
Prostitution is not allowed and Cuban women also cannot just spend the night at a hotel or casa with the tourist together as it has to be registered. (When you stay at a casa they will always register your ID in order to keep track of where you are to inform the government).
But apparently, the possibility to make some money outweighs the risks.

I know, I know. One could say that on this point I am not really tolerant. But excuse me, I do not tolerate Europeans/Canadians/ whoever to come to Cuba/Thailand/ whatever and to take advantage of the awful situation that some of the girls are facing. This is a horrible business which should not be supported.

But hey, it is not only European/Canadian/whatever men who come to Cuba to take advantage of girls. I will also tell you a similar story that I witnessed later on in my travels.

Day 17, Baracoa,or: And then the ox came

“Bananas, Bananas! Hay Coco, Hay Coco! Pinas, Bananas, Naranjas, y hay Cocoooooo!’’
I opened my eyes. I was in Baracoa. And I could hear a loud and singing voice outside on the streets of a happy guy selling fruit. After a wonderful breakfast with little mini toast with cheese that tasted a bit like Feta cheese and two big cups of coffee (at the beginning I didn’t like Cuban coffee at all as it is really strong. But after a while, I started having numerous cups of coffee per day) I stepped on the streets of Baracoa. The streets were wet and dirty and there were little lakes in the holes of the pavement. It had rained the night before- Baracoa is the city with the highest precipitation. I had talked with backpackers before who had been to Baracoa but who had to leave after a couple of days as it would not stop raining. But now, Baracoa looked innocent again showing its beautiful face covered in sunshine. My plan for the day was to go to the Playa Maguana, according to Lonely Planet this was an isolated little beach which was THE secret spot for tourists apparently. I was a bit early and so I decided to talk to the young man who was selling handmade bracelets on the streets. He had dreadlocks and he was wearing long loose pants and a wild beard. He looked like a stereotypical hippie. The guy was absolutely sweet. It turned out that he was a world traveller from Argentina and that he had already been travelling through Asia, Europe and that he would go to Mexico next. When I asked him what his favourite spot has been so far, he immediately said ‘’Cuba. Because even though people don’t have anything here they still live.’’ I was amazed by this fascinating guy, he had a very calm and silent voice, he called me ‘’hermana’’ (sister) and he had totally stunning crystal blue eyes. Wow. I bought one of his handmade bracelets with the bandera (Cuban flag) on it for $35 MN ( a bit more than 1 euro). I continued my walk through the city, it was 9 in the morning and my bus would leave at 9.30. I observed a man who was wearing a spiderman costume and who was completely drunk. He approached me and asked me for a pen. Nope, sorry senor. He had no teeth and the smell was indescribable.

I made it to the beach- but it was not really a quiet secret spot. There were a couple of other tourists as well and already loads of people trying to sell stuff. Anyways, I was sipping on a Pina Colada, listening to the sound of the sephotoa and everything was fantastic. And then, of course, this GUY came. He tried to flirt with me and told me that he could teach me how to dance salsa. I told him that I wasn’t stupid and that I knew exactly what that means. He smiled and asked me if I wanted to ‘’have a good time with him’’ at his place as he seemed to live close by. I laughed and declined. Then he started to tell me his story that he was 34 years old, divorced, that he had a 12 year old son who lived with his mom in Holguin and that he was an alcoholic who had quit drinking 4 years ago. When he was done with his story, he tried to convince me to change my mind and ‘’have a nice time’’ with him. What the fuck was he thinking? He was a 34 year old guy (who looked like 50 by the way. It must be the sun…?) he had just told me about his sad life and now he thought that this would convince me to sleep with him and be his sugar mommy? Oh come on, grow up. Do they really think that tourists are that dumb? (but I mean apparently it works, otherwise they wouldn’t try… I will address the topic sex tourism in Cuba soon btw)

Anyways, I told him that I wanted to enjoy the beach in silence and then he finally left. After he was gone, and elderly couple came and they put their beach towel literally 10cm next to mine although almost the entire beach was empty. I could have sworn that those were Germans (Germans have the talent to behave like embarrassing assholes on their holidays- cliché I know, not every German, I mean I am German myself 😉 ) but no, they were Austrians !! (sorry, honey :P)

The rest of my beach day was really nice. I talked to a Cuban guy who spoke German fluently as he had lived in Chemnitz (back then Karl Marx Stadt) in East Germany. He complained about the bad economic system. As it had rained for the past 2 weeks, he didn’t make any money in his restaurant next to the beach.
While we were talking, an ox-cart passed by at the beach. Alright, wtf?
photo (2)

It was time to go back and the bus drove back to Baracoa. On our way back we saw numerous people on the streets carrying pigs. There were again two guys on bikes, holding a stick with a wrapped cloth were the ass of a pig could be seen.
Well, everybody was already preparing for tomorrow: Tomorrow was the big day, New Year’s Eve.

Organic Farming in Cuba under threat of Monsanto&Co?

As a political scientist with a special interest in the field of International Political Economy, I am of course very concerned regarding the development in the world towards more aggressive ways of production, especially multi national companies which harm countries and its people economically but also environmentally. One of the things I worry about immensely is the food production business, including bio chemical products and of course- GMOs. Monsanto especially is a company which in my opinion is one of the big masters regarding manipulation and evil conquest of the world through its illegal actions to dominate and basically own food production through its patents on GMOs and fertilizers. One of the things I admire about Cuba, even though of course the isolation also has its negative effects- is the aspect that Cuba is still free of all those toxic means in agriculture and therefore the food there is organic and safe. Mostly from small scale farmers and then sold on markets or shops on the streets. I talked to many people in Cuba about this issue and surprisingly, they are aware of the tricks and nasty games that are played in the rest of the world by multi-national corporations and they are also very critical with regards to agriculture. They acknowledged that the threat was there to lose Cuba’s pure agriculture to Monsanto, etc. but they also said that the Cuban government, as well as the Cuban people won’t allow this to happen to their country and that they are proud of their organic and natural products. Let’s hope that the following generations will also see the issue in the same perspective and that Cuban products will remain natural and free from toxic fertilizers and genetic manipulation.
Watch this video to see for yourself what farming is like in Cuba and how innovative Cuban farms are (I am sure that some of you thought that farms in Cuba are old-fashioned and primitive).

You can also read the transcript here

Useful summary of Cuban history and politics

I highly recommend the article which was published in the Council on Foreign Relations by Danielle Renwick and Brianna Lee. This is a good introduction to those who wish to get a clear and short summary of the political history and present situation in Cuba.

Some facts which are especially interesting:

>The Cuban government estimates that more than fifty years of stringent trade restrictions has amounted to a loss of $1.126 trillion.

>The State Department’s annual report for 2013 stated there was no evidence that the country provided training or weapons to terrorist groups. Cuba’s continued inclusion on the list [of states supporting terrorist organizations] was a major obstacle to talks about restoring diplomatic relations following the 2014 rapprochement

> In a 2014 report, Human Rights Watch said Cuba “continues to repress individuals and groups who criticize the government or call for basic human rights” through detentions, travel restrictions, beatings, and forced exile. The report also notes that Cuba released dozens of political prisoners and foreigners in Cuban prisons in 2010 and 2011.

>The Cuban exile community in the Miami area, which makes up about 5 percent of Florida’s population, has been “a pillar of Republican support in presidential elections since 1980,” writes Arturo Lopez-Levy in Foreign Policy. However, recent trends suggest that may change: Obama won the Cuban-American vote in Florida in the 2012 elections.

>A Pew Research poll found 63 percent of Americans supported resuming diplomatic relations, and 66 percent would like an end to the trade embargo. A Washington Post–ABC News poll found 74 percent of respondents were in favor of an end to the travel ban. A June 2014 Florida International University poll indicates a majority of Cuban Americans also support normalizing ties and ending the embargo, signaling a generational shift in attitudes toward the island. A 2015 poll conducted by the U.S. firm Bendixen & Amandi International found that 97 percent of Cubans favor the restoration of ties.

>In 2013, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo for the twenty-second consecutive year, with 188 member countries backing the resolution and only two—the United States and Israel—opposing.

Article Reference: Renwick, D., Lee,B. (2015): U.S.-Cuba Relations, retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/cuba/us-cuba-relations/p11113 [Last accessed 31 May 2015]

Finally: The USA removes Cuba from the list of states to sponsor ”terrorism”

It finally happened!
After the breakthrough of a round of negotiations which started in December and the meeting at the summit of the Americas of Raul Castro and Barack Obama, the United States finally removed Cuba from the list of terrorism which was one of the conditions for new diplomatic and economic ties between the two states.

The White House published a statement where they are speaking of the ‘‘unsuccessful efforts to isolate Cuba” of the past and that now the approach is to ”empower the Cuban people”. The details of the procedure were the following:

”As part of our new way forward with Cuba, the President in December instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, and conclude that review within six months. In April, the Secretary of State completed that review and recommended to the President that Cuba should no longer be designated as a State Sponsors of Terrorism. The President then submitted to Congress the statutorily required report indicating the Administration’s intent to rescind Cuba’s State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including the certification that Cuba has not provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six-months; and that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”  Read the full statement here

Setting states and organisations in the list of terrorism has been a common strategy for the USA in its attempt to categorize the world in ”the axis of evil” and its ”allies”.
This can be regarded quite critical as well as the decision whether an organisation or a state ends up on the list of sponsors of terrorism or whether it is directly categorized as a terrorist organisation is made due to political motives.
Let’s take the PKK for instance. The PKK is the Kurdish party which fights for its freedom already for decades. Although the PKK also works together with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces (which are supported by the West) in order to fight the Islamic State militants (especially in the case of the Yazidi, an ancient religious minority of which 1200 people had to escape last summer on a mountain from IS), the PKK is still on the list of terrorist organisations. This is clearly happening for political reasons, as the PKK’s aim is the official independence and recognition of Kurdistan.

An other example on how the USA picks sides and randomly uses the terrorist list is the case of the Syrian Civil War and the fight against IS where the USA started to supply ”moderate rebels” with weapons in order to assist them with their fight against IS. It is not clear who those moderate rebels are, what they stand for, if they commit war crimes and what they want to achieve in their fight. It is not clear whether the weapons are in the wrong hands again.

I could go on and on again. The USA used to be great friends with the Taliban (oops, that went wrong!) and let’s not forget how much they love Saudi Arabia. And every person who is a bit educated about what is going on in the Middle East knows exactly that Saudi Arabia also supports ”terrorist” groups.

Yes, I am putting ”terrorist” between ” ”. Why? Terrorism is a concept. You cannot easily put an organization or an entire group in this concept. How is terrorism defined? One’s terrorist could be another person’s freedom fighter.
So yeayy. At least they figured out that the case of Cuba was just complete political nonsense and they realized it. Maybe one day the big wake up call is going to happen (I am not too optimistic, though)

By the way: In case you’d like to get references of my examples or further readings, let me know

Picture: Aljazeera

Day 16: Baracoa,or: The wild rebel

I made it. Finally. Baracoa.
After a decent trip in the Viazul bus from Santiago de Cuba via Guantanamo (yes, THE Guantanamo). The trip was amazing. From Guantanamo onwards it was a desert like landscape. Cactus trees, dirt and dust, then the Sierra mountains started and it got hilly, more banana trees, then more mountains…. And complete20141229_120733ly red mountains in a super strong colour, the mountains got bigger, the bus was jumping… it was amazing.We stopped in a super small mountain village where they offered coffee and chocolate, as well as fruit and coconuts.
Oh, and there were turkeys walking around in the small garden.
Baracoa is a little city at the most eastern point of the island. As it is surrounded by mountains, it was not possible to reach Baracoa for a super long time and the village was isolated. This however helped Baracoa to develop its own character and often it is described as the wild soul of Cuba. Baracoa is also the oldest city of the country, as it is the point where Columbus entered the island first. Baracoa was the capital of Cuba, but in 1511 (thanks Wikipedia 😉 ) this changed and Santiago de Cuba became the capital because of the difficult position of Baracoa. Until the revolution, Baracoa was not reachable by land, solely by sea as there was no road through the mountains. This changed then when Castro ordered the construction of ”La Farola”, the r20141229_142439oad which should connect Guantanamo with Baracoa.
This ended the isolation of the city and people living in Baracoa appreciate the revolution highly, in my opinion in Baracoa you can feel it most. You have lots of propaganda paintings, etc. People are really grateful for the fact that the revolution gave them La Farola.

After the trip, I got picked up by Ana, the owner of my casa. She was absolutely adorable! And my roo20141229_152916m, oh my gosh, it was amazing. I felt so warmly welcomed and the city had such a positive vibe. I bought chocolate (the only chocolate factory, established by Che Guevara himself, is in Baracoa) and cucuruchu- a delicious sweet snack which is wrapped in palm tree leaves and tastes absolutely fantastic. It’s a mix of coconut, nuts and dried fruit. My mouth is going crazy when I just think about it.
Buy it from this one guy who is selling it on the streets. You can get 2 of them for $1CUC. (make sure to have a spoon with you and put them in the fridge whenever you can).

I walked around in the city and absolutely loved it. I bought some souvenirs (much cheaper than in Havana!!) and had nice chats with people. Then, the Malec20141229_141509on. I was amazed. The sand was black and there were black rocks, the sea is rough and the water clashes against the rocks. It was a bit windy and the air smelled salty and whenever a rough wave clashes against the rocks you might get a bit wet. I absolutely loved it. I let the salty natural perfume soak through my nose, right in my mind… Baracoa, the wild rebel of the Cuban cities. I immediately felt home.

LGBT rights in Cuba: ”Yes to socialism, no to homophobia!”

Quick update on what’s going on in Cuba right now:

-celebration of about 1000 people in Havana who stand up against homophobia
– the meeting is organized by Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro Espin who is a known sexologist in the country

Vice article on the situation:

”This year marked Cuba’s eighth annual LGBT pride parade, and hundreds came out against homophobia, demanding “workplaces that are free from discrimination due to sexual orientation or gender identity,” and equal marriage rights.

But the highlight of Saturday’s parade for many spectators — some holding signs that read, “Yes tosocialism, No to homophobia” — was a series of mock weddings held in downtown Havana, complete with priests who blessed the crowd.
(…)

A group of more than 50 Protestant students formed a conga line led by Mariela Castro. Together with colorfully dressed dancers from across the gender spectrum, they marched through the city to celebrate diversity and tolerance.

Yet, despite increasing support for the LGBT movement in Cuba, the national assemblywoman has been unable to influence a redefining of the Cuban Family Code, which does not currently recognize the right to same-sex marriage. 

Cuba has, however, made strides in recent years toward a broader definition of what constitutes a union between partners. In 2011, Cuba celebrated its first legally recognizednon-traditional marriage, after a post-op transgender male was legally recognized as female and allowed to wed her partner, a homosexual male.

“We have demonstrated that our project is not impossible,” Mariela Castro said on Saturday to droves of supporters. “If I were a lesbian or transgender, this [work] would be much more difficult. The fact that I’m heterosexual allows me to reach heterosexual people.”

She did, however, acknowledge that among her beneficial traits, “being able to talk to the president on a random Sunday also helps.”

Castro has been an integral figurehead for the Cuban LGBT community since becoming the director of Cuba’s sexual education center, Cenesex, in 2000. Former Communist leader Fidel Castro spoke out publicly in 2010 on his revolutionary government’s persecution of “ideological deviants” decades before, regretting the role he had played in this “great injustice.”

And many have argued that Mariela is in a privileged position to influence policy, as Raul’s daughter and Fidel’s niece. ”

Read the full article here

Is Cuba changing? It is true that the country and its people is living in a time of transformation.
Often, Cuba is regarded is old-fashioned and ultra conservative, which is not completely true.
Latin America is a pretty Catholic and conservative society which rejects LGBT rights.
Example:
The Atala family vs. Chile

Ms. Atala, citizen of Chile, mother of three girls got a divorce from her husband. She obtained full custody for her girls, but then it turned out that she was lesbian. Ms. Atala started living with her partner and her ex-husband who found out about the situation got very angry. He demanded full custody over his children and a very long court process started.
Ms. Atala lost custody over her kids and because of her homosexuality the Chilean national courts even agreed with her husband. In 2003, the Chilean Juvenile court also granted provisional custody to the father. In 2004, Chile’s supreme court of justice also gave permanent custody to the father.
In 2010 then (!!!) the Latin American court of human rights refused Chile’s ruling and gave custody to Ms. Atala. This was after the mother has been seperated for eight years from her children.

The right to equality and non-discrimination was harmed, as well as the child’s best interest was harmed, as well as the right to family. Also, the right to private life and family life was disregarded.

It is important to note that the LGBT problem is a global issue which needs to be adressed and Cuba is not an exceptional case.

Picture: bbc

Santiago de Cuba, or: No worries!

Before I move on with my travels to my next destination, Baracoa, just a little piece of advice for future Cuba travellers who are planning on visiting Santiago de Cuba. If the heat gets too rough and you feel like you need to escape and have some peace and silence, go to the cementerio Santa Ifigenia (graveyard). All graves are in white, it is a really relaxing atmosphere, there is a ceremony every thirty minutes and you can have a nice chat with the security personnel. Grab a Bici Taxi and go there, it is amazing.
Although it is a bit far away from the city centre, it is totally worth it as you cross the poorer neighbourhoods of Santiago. My Bici taxi driver was20141228_104442 amazing. His Bici was broken and fixed with a beer can (haha, AWESOME. I will use this next time when my bike is broken) and we talked a lot. He stopped at one point to say hi to one of his friends, and that’s where I got the Cuba experience in one picture: Imagine the following.
A completely fucked up neighbourhood. The street is not paved, houses about to collapse.
And then there is a man standing in his tiny garden of his house. Loud music, he doesn’t wear a shirt although it might be wise (He has a gigantic beer belly) and he is holding a bottle of rum in his hands and dancing enthusiastically to the sexy reggaeton music. He smiles at me and waves with his hands, signalling that I should join him. I just cheer at him and smile. That’s Cuba.

(The car you can see on the picture by the way is a Tourist rental car. The number plate is red and it starts with ”T”- for Tourist. Every number plate starts with a letter which means something:

A white government ministers, provincial officials, and other important state persons
light brown authorised government and official persons of lower rank
D / E / F / G / H yellow private vehicles
K yellow vehicles and motorcycles owned by foreign natural persons
light brown vehicles and motorcycles owned by foreign and mixed companies, foreign journalists, religious institutions
R yellow private motorcycles and “cocotaxis”
S / T / U / V / W blue state owned vehicles
Y / Z state owned motorcycles

source: Wikipedia (I know, I know. Horrible source, but in this case it is reliable)

Cubans don’t have anything. They live a very simple life and have to be creative in order to make a decent living. But still, they somehow manage to be happy. It does not make them depressed or anything.
But what about those people who apparently have everything?
-South Korea, a booming state with a fantastic economy: Highest suicide rate in the world
-In 2009, about twenty employees of the French company France telecom commit suicide because of stress caused by re-structuring of the management and policies.
-skyrocketting cases of burnout
-depression

Is it the weather that makes them happy and satisfied? What are they doing right? And what are we doing wrong?
I have my theory about that, but just think about it yourself. Are you happy? Do you think that you are satisfied with your life? What can you do differently in order not to fall into one of the mentioned categories?
I hope that I don’t sound like a strange psychologist at the moment, but I believe that every person should be aware of the most important aspect of their lives: Happiness.
Do not let ”them” (The system, your employer/company, parents, those who critizise you, or whoever it might be in your case) take that away from you.