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bondgirl78 Jan 21st, 2005 11:02 AM

has anyone made it to havana? is it really dangerous or are people just paranoid?

GoTravel Jan 21st, 2005 11:04 AM

bondgirl, American citizens cannot spend money in Cuba so that makes it difficult for us to go there.

There are a few exceptions to this one of them being educational trips.

Ryan Jan 21st, 2005 11:07 AM

You might want to post this on the Caribbean board. Unless of course the long expected "Yankee Imperialism" has finally managed to make Cuba part of the US.

BTW, I had friends who went to Cuba several years ago. I don't think it was dangerous. However, since then Fidel's changed the rules on using US dollars and US INS has become more vigilant in looking for Americans returning from Cuba to the US via some gateway like Toronto.

fdecarlo Jan 21st, 2005 11:53 AM

GlobeTrekker did an episode on Cuba a while back.. If you haven't already I highly recommend seeing it.

There's nothing like unleashing Ian Wright on a country like Cuba... Imagine for example standing in line for two hours for ice cream, then discovering the line actually doesn't go anywhere. Ian's experience with the "ice cream security" had us rolling on the floor, although it really is more tragic than funny. Those poor poor people.

So if your idea of a good time is urban squalor, constantly being solicited on beaches for money and/or sex by teenage prostitutes and interacting with alcoholic tobacco farmers then Cuba would be a dream vacation destination.

suze Jan 21st, 2005 12:09 PM

I don't believe it is dangerous or that people are paranoid (I'm not sure who you've been talking to for this impression) but you aren't allowed legally to visit from the U.S., are you?

I know several people who've gone and loved it. They were part of education tours (like the library society) which has an exception to the rule above.

I don't think you are allowed to enter directly from the U.S. so some folks fly thru Cancun, Mexico to get around that.

Patrick Jan 21st, 2005 12:09 PM

I have British friends who went a few years ago when all the travel agents there were advertising amazingly cheap packages. They thought it was mainly just so sad. They saw a country that was obviously once beautiful -- and still vestiges of beautiful beaches and countryside, but horribly deteriorated and crumbling buildings that obviously were once beautiful. It appeared that nothing had been fixed up, only replaced with really cheap junk. They felt the sadness of it all destroyed their "vacation".

Tandoori_Girl Jan 21st, 2005 01:11 PM

The allure of Havana is found all over in its streets where everywhere there is music and dancing. Music is life for Cubans -- and life is full of passion. Tampa has a long history with Cuba, many Cubans moved to Tampa as early as the 1890s. Many people from Tampa go to Cuba, most to experience the culture of Cuba. Although Castro has little tolerance for dissidents or STDs, Cuba has 100% literacy, while the United States has barely 50%. What I've heard is that the educated profs who go come back raving about Cuba and its culture. This has not set well with the US and there is fear that doors will be closed soon.

here_today_gone2Maui Jan 21st, 2005 01:36 PM

Doors are closing quickly under the current administration. My daughter is a grad student studying Latin American Foreign Policy with her focus on Cuba, and she has long planned to do her thesis on Castro's contingency plan. She has looked forward to an educational research trip that in the past has gone each year via Cal Poly Pomona. But this year their license has been revoked and will not be reissued anytime soon. This trip has historically been well-recieved by the students who took it, as the professor who arranged it has many strong relationships with people in Castro's administration. It was not a spring break, party at the disco and drink rum school trip, but a trip taken by serious students that involved serious research.

I don't want to turn this into a political debate, but I will say that most Americans are extremely ignorant on what is real and what is not regarding life in Cuba. Cuba has long been the focus of my daughter's studies and as I result I have been exposed to a larger view of Cuba than the average American who knows only what they learn from cable TV and from the Elian Gonzalez made-for-TV movie. We don't need less educational and cultural exchanges with Cuba--we need more. We've been holding this grudge an awful long time.

GoTravel Jan 21st, 2005 01:52 PM

TandooriGirl, you may want to check your facts on the literacy rate in the United States.

Out of the four sources listed below, Cuba actually has a lower literacy rate than the US and ours is between 97% and 99%. As US citizens, we have one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

stormygirl Jan 21st, 2005 02:41 PM

Actually it is true that Cuba continues to stay at 100%

not trying to start a big political debate but I think especially in such a poor country the things they are doing right should be applauded.

Cuba 100%
USA 87%

seetheworld Jan 21st, 2005 03:20 PM

When considering literacy rates, people must remember that the United States is not a monolingual society such as Cuba, but a multilingual one. In fact, of the two largest school districts in the United States, New York and Los Angeles, approximately half of the students entering kindergarten have limited-English proficiency. Learning English is challenging enough for students, throw in a learning disability and the difficulties increase. When you view literacy rates, you must take this into consideration.

DonnieD Jan 21st, 2005 03:25 PM

Americans are not allowed to travel to Cuba. I thought America was a FREE country. It's all political, as the US allows people to travel to most other countries with human rights violations. Open travel and trade is ultimately the best way to promote democracy in other countries.

GoTravel Jan 21st, 2005 04:57 PM

stormy, the second link you gave did not give literacy rates for the United States. The 87% figure you quote is the Youth (15 and under) World Literacy Rate.

The first link only let me open the first page.

Can you cut and paste?

Every figure and source I've found lists the United States as having one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

laurelt Jan 21st, 2005 05:09 PM

I live in SF and lots of my friends have been to Cuba. Most fly to Cancun & then to Cuba. The Mexican & Cuban officials do not stamp your passport so there is no evidence that you have been there. You need to pay cash for everything you buy in Cuba so you don't leave a credit card trail.

Patrick Jan 21st, 2005 06:08 PM

I have a Cuban friend whose elderly parents still live in Cuba. Neither her mother or father can read or write. That's a fact. So I know as a fact that Cuba does not have a 100% literacy rate, as there are at least two people there who can't read or write. It's hard to imagine that they are the only two in the whole country.

Tandoori_Girl Jan 21st, 2005 06:08 PM

GoT, the US is constantly fudging its literacy rates. Documenting it is very hard. People can't read and they hide it. You will find all sorts of "literacy rates" that go from one end to another. The reality is that many many people can't read, much less speak the King's English. We are a nation of immigrants. This is the downside of being a nation of immigrants. We force them to read English which is totally irrelevant to who they are and what they know. They give up, move on, get jobs where they don't have to read.

It's amazing what Castro has been able to accomplish among so many poor people. It's too bad that he gets rid of aids by putting people w/HIV in prison. And it's too bad that he puts dissidents before the firing squad. That's a big bad no-no.

GoTravel Jan 22nd, 2005 04:15 AM

While I beleive that is true that we very well could be fudging our literacy rates, I find it hard to beleive that the dozen or so sites I've been on all put our literacy rate around 99%.

The universal test(across the globe) for literacy is for anyone 15 years old and above to be able write a short paragraph about yourself. There is no reading involved because it is assumed if you can write, you can read.

mclaurie Jan 22nd, 2005 04:44 AM

The thread has turned a corner from the original question of safety. While this is not the right forum, I know several people who have gone and none commented on safety issues. It is perfectly safe from what I hear.

vivi Jan 22nd, 2005 05:04 AM

My niece went to CUba summer of 2003 with her universit to study Spanish. They flew to Cancun and then to Cuba. They stayed in crumbling dorms at the Universtiy of Havana. They had a blast but were very shocked at the decaying infrastructure of the island. She reported no safety issues. Most of the kids did get Montezuma's Revenge at least once but they did like the food.

Patrick Jan 22nd, 2005 05:44 AM

vivi, I think if they got Montezuma's Revenge they must have been lost and in Mexico. Didn't they get Fidel's Revenge? LOL

One other comment from most of the visitors. In addition to the crumbling architecture, everyone notes the ancient cars. One friend said it was like going to an antique car show -- nearly all American 50's and 60's cars. Most were rusted out, but many were well maintained and spotless, obviously with proud owners.

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