You Guys, a lot has been happening, and I am eager to tell you all about it - but first, how have you all been? Email me and let me know your new year goals, I would love to hear about them!
I would like to begin this by stating that everything I speak about is from my own perspective, experience and connection in Cuba. Although I do feel I am a great resource, my opinions should not be taken as fact. I encourage you to visit Cuba to develop your own thoughts from what you see and experience.
Okay, so now I know why Assata Shakur fled to Cuba and I think I am right behind her! For my birthday I decided to go to Cuba. I've always had a desire to go because of the old school cars, architecture and just being the curious soul that I am. Honesty, I never thought I would make it there this early in life; I could not even believe it when I was there, I kept taking deep breaths to be sure I was actually alive!
To say the least, the trip changed my life. I can say with confidence and certainty that I am not the same person I was before I left for Cuba. I am humbled and amazed by what I saw.
Before going to Cuba, I supported and advocated for the idea of community and unity and felt committed to promoting these ideas. I realize now that I lacked an actual grasp on what these ideas actually meant and had few experiences to articulate their importance.
While I was in Cuba, I witnessed love, community and solidarity in ways I had rarely seen outside of interactions with my family and friends in the United States. I frequently saw these elements of the country manifest while walking through the streets of Old Havana, and Havana. Not only did I observed the communities, but I also bravely walked through by my lonesome and engaged with the people through speaking to vendors in markets and residents in neighborhood and dancing salsa and bachata with some locals. Not only did I speak and interact, but more importantly, I listened.
I honestly do not know what I expected Cuba to be like, I had no expectations besides for myself to learn. I didn't even think about the complicated history and relationship between the United States and Cuba and the thought didn't come to me until I got home and soaked it all in.
I realized early on in the trip that I was exactly where I needed to be, I had no idea Cuba was so rich in African culture — the people at every church and every block I visited greeted me with warmth and compassion. I even had dinner with the family that lived across the street from my Airbnb!
I learned the Catholic Church isn’t just an institution to attend Sunday mass, (like in the United States). I witnessed the Catholic Church actually serve the community, providing different programming for children, adults and entrepreneurs and focusing on mental health, technology and research. I witnessed the Catholic Church help the Cuban people live, connect and flourish.
In Cuba, people actually cared about each other. Living in an individualistic capitalist society like the United States, such genuine community is not prioritized and often undervalued.
Despite the forewarnings and fear of my family and friends, I wasn’t nervous about traveling to a communist country.
The majority of my understanding about Cuba and communism came from learning about the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War through elementary, middle and high school. Communism was always painted as an idea that had to be eradicated.
We are more similar than we think, which may or may not seem obvious. Racism and poverty exist within the U.S. They exist within Cuba as well. The concern for economic stability exists in the U.S. It exists in Cuba as well. The importance of family, health care and education exist in the U.S. They exist in Cuba as well.
Our political institutions are at odds, but that does not mean we have to be. I believe it's important to remember that politics is politics and morals are morals - catching my drift? I went to Cuba as a good human, a curious human and that is the exact energy I was received with!
We have to check our privilege, whether that be racial, economic, gender or national. And this is not a matter of throwing pity on those less fortunate, but it is rather a matter of understanding and acknowledging our place in society as well as the social geopolitical context. What freedoms do you have? What basic needs are being met? What are you grateful for?
This trip taught me we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, whether that be immersing yourself in a different environment and culture or confronting the past and acknowledging mistakes. We have to love each other. That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everyone, but we have to respect and recognize the existence of every person on this Earth.
Without that, I believe we are lost.
I can go for days about my birthday trip to Cuba, but I won't keep you long tonight. Feel free to email me any questions regarding my stay and itinerary if you're ever interested in visiting Cuba!
I may come with you (:
PS: The photos below are real, and all taken by ME! 😉