We moved across the sunlit gray bricks of Plaza Vieja, dizzy from the very miracle of being in Cuba. We passed the building housing Camara Oscura, then meandered into the center of the square where the fountain was surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence. From there we could see an art gallery with arched, stained glass windows, restaurants, a few musicians, and a huge metal sculpture of a bald woman, naked except for her shoes, holding a huge fork over one shoulder, riding a chicken. Several men tried to sell us knock-off cigars and cheap rum.
At the edge of the plaza a class of young children played a highly-regimented game of tag; we stopped to watch them before we moved on through Habana Vieja, Old Havana, one of the most restored, touristy, and expensive parts of Cuba. We were on our way to a church in a modest neighborhood, to hunt through their baptismal records for information on Anne’s mother, who had her first communion here in the 1950s.
On the Southeast corner of the wide, majestic Old Square was a massive art nouveau building with stone gods, griffins, and satrys, curlicues abounding the graceful, weathered, ornate façade. We stood in wonder, tracing the details with our eyes, and pointing out all the pagan elements we saw.
And when we tromped onward, making early steps to find Anne’s Cuban family, we had gone less than half a block before we realized that the building, La Palacio Cueto, was only a facade. A construction crane slept nearby, idly rusting, and grasses grew in sandy clumps on the bare floors inside the edifice, a 10-year restoration project far from completion.
The back walls and interior of the former hat factory/hotel/apartment building were completely gone, empty of substance; someone had done a half-assed job of shoving random pieces of wood into the windows of the bottom floor to prop them up so the entire concrete behemoth didn’t collapse.
Just like Trump’s Cuba policy, first announced in June 2017, with more details released five months later. No substance, no real plan, just a piece of incomplete work designed to restore an old, exhausted facade.
The Art & Architecture of Forbidden Hotels
Trump’s policy bans United Statesians from doing business with some hotels, stores, museums, distilleries, government and other organizations, and even marinas associated with the Cuban military.
After searching through my pictures from Old Havana, I don’t think I could afford to stay at any of the hotels on the list anyway.
I am still marveling that the Hotel Nacional de Cuba is not on Trump’s list. The entire building seems to be a monument to the elite communist powers in Cuba, as these photos show.
Real News on the Trump Travel Policy
If you want to travel to Cuba, you can still book a flight online, take a cruise, and return to the U.S. with most Cuban rums and cigars, por supuesto. Gigantic U.S. corporation Caterpillar gets to keep its contracts there as well.
To discover more about the details of this silly façade of a policy, check out these links:
- The list of restricted hotels, stores, marinas, and organizations so blatantly associated with the Cuban military they were obvious targets.
- Washington Post article about the November 2017 restrictions.
- Travelers react to the new restrictions in this NPR article.
- State Department alerts and warnings about traveling to Cuba.
- A New York Times article breaks down the mysterious sonic attacks on the U.S. embassy.
- USA Today states in writing that bringing home rum, art, and cigars will not be affected by the new policy.
You can also live vicariously through my photographs.
Rum, Art, Merchandise, Cigars
Following Serendipity in Cuba
I can’t stop writing about Cuba. Read more: