This place continues to fascinate. Our lunch conversations are lively, as some of us are 50-somethings, some in their 60s, and others in their 20s, with totally different orientations vis-a-vis the future. Claudia and Ana, our excellent 25-year old producers have a different knowledge of history, as they were born during Cuba's "Special period," a time of deprivation catalyzed by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. They are practical and forward-thinking—and they value the revolution and its luminaries. All of our crew is willing to talk about race, and gay and trans is no big deal for them.
Before leaving for Cuba I had a good conversation with a potential funder, who told me that his trip to Cuba 5 years ago was profoundly depressing. He saw that Cubans have the joie de vivre but this was overcome by what he experienced as a desperation engendered by the lack of opportunity and dictatorship. I took a deep breath and reminded him that Cuba is an island with nuance flying everywhere. They don't vote; two brothers have held power since independence. Our version of human rights and freedom of speech, differs from theirs. Movement is limited. Many of these things bother me. Yet Cuba has a 99% literacy and high school graduation rate. There are limited opportunities for computer programmers, architects, entrepreneurs. And no gun violence. And their national newspaper is a party organ. But no cartels. It doesn't look like Mexico, Honduras, or Columbia during the 90s. And talented people still leave, via boat or a long trek through South America, worried that if the US embargo is lifted, legal immigration tomorrow will become even harder than illegal immigration today.
How to synthesize this into a tidy package? I can't, which is why I always take a deep breath when a friend tells me Cuba is a totalitarian state or a paradise. It's just.....Cuba.