Cuba Si/Cuba No
By Yvonne Mason


Cuba has intrigued me since I was very young. My Aunt Olga lived in Cuba for two years at the time of the Battista regime. She returned to California with all kinds of stories. I remember my parents dancing to Besame Mucho. And, who can forget the adorable Lucy and Desi. I saw them snuggling at the ChiChi Club in Palm Springs.

Cuba has been both compelling and forbidden for as long as I can remember. A lot of what goes on in Havana has to do with the past, The Tropicana, "Under the Stars Saloon" (founded in 1939), is a rather. tacky 50's style show production with the young girls wearing barely anything on the body, but enough feathers elsewhere to clothe the entire flock. The snacks, sparkling wine and rum were of poor quality. The show mildly amusing. The music more Vegas than Cuba.

Better to go to the Hotel Nacional for a real feeling of the '40s and '50s. Sinatra and all those stars hung out at the Hotel Nacional during the heyday. Montages of the celebrities line the walls of one large hall. The bluff in front is a great place to drink a pina colada.


The food in Cuba, for the most part, is dreadful and smothered in mayo. There were a few good restaurants, mostly paradors (privately owned, not really legal, but really good.) Dos Hermanos is the best restaurant we tried with lots of fresh, well prepared fish, gprgeous shrimp, paella redolent with saffron and more. So why were the majority of restaurants so bad? I think they just donít care. Chocolate from the Museo Del Chocolate was devine. Especially, the chocolate artesanal Aurora chocolate Amargo and the hot chocolate. Chocolate inspired graphics dated back to Victorian times grace the walls. Definately, one of the high lights of Havana.

'1950's U. S. cars, Russian cars, cars of every color, cars of every shape, cars mostly kept in good or at least in running condition are everywhere. I have never had such a love of seeing more cars. And, the little cococabs are adorable little cabs that look like coconuts, but cost more to ride than regular cabs.

Cuban Chocolate
Havana Woman

For some reason well known artists are allowed to take delivery of new cars and have really nice houses. They also travel to the U.S. often to participate in art shows. That seemed like a terrific idea to treat artists so well.

The beaches are clean and the water is warm. The only billboards we saw were propaganda boards (Fidel & Che) on the way from the airport to Havana.

Trinidad and Cienfuegos are charming historic cities in good repair. Miles and miles of small houses with farms covered the countryside. People seemed to be removed and usually not friendly.

Havana is about half elegant beautifully maintained houses and half falling apart without roof hovels. A series of contradictions.


U.S. money is worth only 80 cents to the Cuban dollar. That hurts.

I don't feel I really know Cuba, it's still an enigma, but I doubt I would return.

Last update Mon February 18, 2013 1:58 PM