3 March 2015
Thao, Quynh and I visited Cuba for a week. With the US embargo showing signs of crumbling, we wanted to see the country now before it changes forever. Pictured above are the three of us in a Havana taxi (a 1950s Lincoln Capri -- with tailfins and no seat belts)
Quick and dirty history of Cuba: Back in the 1950s income inequality reached an all-time high. The Batista government's policies allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. The result was a popular revolution. The Castro government leveled the playing field, confiscating all land.[?] This antagonized the US, which lost significant business investments in the process. The US planned an invasion. Cuba became communist in exchange for protection from the USSR. The US declared a trade embargo, but it was ineffective since the USSR was happy to trade with Cuba. In 1991 when the USSR collapsed, Cuba felt the full force of the embargo for the first time. Although the US is the only country with a trade embargo against Cuba, it effectively prevents all trade since it gives foreign companies a choice: trade with Cuba or trade with the US -- pick one (taken straight from Microsoft's playbook). Cuba implemented "Zero Option" to become almost completely self-sufficient, supplemented by income from tourism. However, tourism is proving problematic since Cubans in contact with tourists (e.g. hotel maids) are now the richest people in the country, far out-earning doctors. Where does Cuba go from here?
See our trip photos to follow the adventure.