Cuba. A beautiful island in a shining sea inhabited by intelligent, honest and downright good folk. Suffered they have after years of posturing revolutionary figures who, with the aid of the Soviet Union, held the country in their icy grip and sentenced the population to a life of poverty and communist propaganda.
Imagine that you have begged, through rum-tinged tears and cigar smoke, for trade ties with America to be reinstated so that you could drive, not crawl, to your job at the tobacco factory. Imagine if the first things you actually got after the recent resurrection of said economic ties was not the shiny new roads and 21st century technology but Donkey Bum, the Child Catcher and the man who got Tango’d!
The talentless vanity project that is Kim Kardashian and her philosopher-lite, and barking mad, accessory, Kanye West, breezed into Havana within six days and demonstrated to the Cubans what they had been missing. The Child Catcher that is Karl Lagerfeld wafted into town with trollies full of dollies for a fashion show, along with 400 fashion editors who spent their time complaining of the awful hotel rooms, ghastly food and lack of decent Wi-Fi.
The original orange Tango man, hotel billionaire Sol Kerzner, will no doubt buy up the finest beaches and construct horrific themed Atlantis Hotels, complete with authentic Cuban nights so that guests don’t have to venture outside its walls and deal with the undeveloped horror of the real world.
And not to worry, even if you go off piste and book your own journey, as McDonalds have 43 sites leveraged and KFC, Taco Bell and Chucky Cheese are not far behind. Within a decade, the US will consume Cuba, following the blueprint of what they did to Hawaii. Economically invade, wipe out their culture, replace it with their own, reinvent theirs into entertainment, and proceed. Trouble is that American culture, an oxymoron if ever l heard one, is totally vacuous. Or at least, that bit that will invade Cuba.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, JFK Centre for the Performing Arts or the Boston Symphony Orchestra will be conspicuous by their absence, and Cuba’s entire heritage will be fully appropriated and turned into tacky merchandise as hundreds of enormous, heavily basted, pink-pant-suited Floridians arrive and it becomes a vacation park before anyone has blinked. Most distressing of all was the arrival of the first cruise ship with 700 obese passengers waddling down the gang planks, loudly requesting directions to the nearest Ben & Jerrys and Starbucks.
Cuba is a time warp, the likes of which might only ever be found again when North Korea falls. Due to the blockade by the US after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the isolated island is a time capsule and could have been a stupendous human experiment in the reversal of our culture vandalism - and it’s not just the US, as we’re all at it. They have just perfected the art of totally talentless, vacuous celebrity and a culture centred on copious amounts of food, guns, sport and conspicuous consumption.
Today’s self-absorbed stars will never grasp the severe problems that dog the country, the poverty, crumbling buildings, human rights abuses and, with the exception of their health system, failed public services. They will lead a tribe of ignorant, self-absorbed tourists, who will pay top dollar so that giant corporations can pay bottom dollar and imprison the once proud Cuban’s into wage slavery, washing hotel sheets, manning the vast kitchens and keeping the pristine hotel lawns and golf courses watered. It’s nothing but cheap labour for the continuation of conspicuous consumption. The British did it in India and now the Yanks are at it.
I have seen it first-hand, having lived in a couple of so-called ‘third world countries’ close to US borders. They can’t help it, but it’s like a Tsunami of bad taste coupled to their urgent need to populate the entire area with their own food outlets and hotel chains. Look at Hawaii. Look at Cabo san Lucas in Mexico. Look at the Bahamas.
Of course, Cuba needs trade to develop and prosper, and with beautiful sandy beaches, a superb climate and land as cheap as chips, they are on a hiding to nothing, but what a missed opportunity. If only the West could give them trade, technology and financial support for the regeneration of services, Cuba would surprise the world. When Columbus arrived in 1492, there had already been a civilisation in place since the 3rd century A.D. Only when La Pinta, La Niña and the Santa Maria landed did the trouble start. Even now Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the Western Hemisphere, and this, over all else, is what has kept the culture, heritage and their passion alive.
We should foster it and not eradicate it with bubble-gum bullshit that will be gone faster than it took to create.
La Cuba es muerta. ¡Viva la Cuba!