I am a Puerto Rican in California dreaming of Cuba. It may seem odd to some. However, I wonder what will happen to the Cuba I fell in love with five years ago now that US-Cuba relations have thawed enormously. I dream of going back, drinking their glorious rum and chatting away with those I met while there several years back. I dream of finding that gorgeous pink car I saw at sunset one night. It was the perfect car at the perfect moment.
When I traveled to Cuba five years ago I did so in a public health capacity. I got see see and meet professors at their world-famous medical school. I also got to see their public health campaigns at the local clinics which impressed me enormously because of their humor and ubiquity. Notably the WHO (World Health Organization) praised Cuba for being the first country to eradicate perinatal HIV transmission. This is huge. Another major step to the end of AIDS. I made as many connections one could with the public health officials. Look, I am not naive, I understood many were scripted. However, their smiles were warm and true even when they chastised us our US “blockade” policy.
With those interactions and conversations in my memory pocket, I set about getting one last set of memories. My last morning in Cuba, I went with a friend that I had just made on the trip, on a cab trip around the island at the morning dawn. It was a sleepy Sunday morning. However, the sense of connection to the island and to the people was strong.
There was a lonely ship at sea that evoked a cloudy romanticism akin to Casablanca. There was a feeling of loving the island for just what it was: a grand place with its arms outstretched waiting, waiting…
There was a couple showing their love on the boardwalk- El Malecon- which is noted for being the soul of Havana. How lovely it was to see love so unabashedly displayed where the heart and soul of Cuba is noted to be (at least for tourists).
Then the cabbie drove us to a far away beach (though not so far that we would miss our flight that day) that was empty and vast. We came across a stretch of beach where chairs were being set up two at a time. I smiled. Cuba -always so hopeful.