Everyone’s talking about Cuba these days, and I am thrown 20 years back to when I first visited this special island, and left it with mixed feelings about its future. I was 20 years old back then.
During a summer internship in Caracas (that’s a whole other blog post!), I remember meeting a beautiful Venezuelan woman – a testament to the country’s many miss world. She told me how she had been involved in a romantic relationship with Che Guevara in her youth, growing up on the island with her diplomatic father. I was already fascinated by the story of Cuba, and the many myths surrounding its history. This encounter sparked a thrill to explore it. I found 2 travel companions and we bought a roundtrip ticket Caracas-Curacao-Havana, just because it was cheaper using that route and it gave us a chance to spend a night in Curaçao and drink some…curaçao.
We stayed in La Habana for 4 days, what an impression it made on me! It was the summer of 1995 and Cuba was very much closed to Western tourists. Cubans were not keen to interact openly with foreigners for fear of being spied on. Guest-houses were forbidden. Privately-owned restaurants, called paladar (they had existed for years illegally) had just been allowed to open to customers selectively. They were all the rage among the few foreign tourists as they gave us a rare chance to interact with the locals behind curtains.