Sunday, February 24, 2008

a cuba sugar

Last week's news that Fidel Castro is passing part of his duties to Raul has caused me to take another look at my projected move to Mexico. I need to keep the Cuba option open.

Let me explain. Several years ago, my alumni association sponsored a one-week trip to Cuba. The purpose of the trip was to attend a series of lectures on Cuba law. (In true Cuban fashion, one of the students in Cuba responded when I told him why I was there for a law conference: "A law conference? In Cuba? Isn't that like attending a chastity conference in Gomorrah?" No one will outdo a Cuban for cynical humor.)

But I had a second purpose. The Salvation Army officers find it very difficult to import Salvation Army uniforms. We always have excess uniforms in Salem. I stuffed a large suit case with pants, skirts, shirts, and blouses. The officers in Cuba were extremely pleased to receive them. The work of the Salvation Army is restricted by the Cuban government, but they do what they can -- and they do it well.

When I returned from that trip, I decided I was going to sell my house, move to Cuba, and do what I could to assist the Salvation Army there. I immediately ran into two problems. Even though I could obtain an American visa to go to Cuba, I could not take any money with me. And, even if I could take the money, the Cuban government was not interested in allowing a long-term visit. So, that plan went on hold -- until changes occur on both sides of the Florida Straits.

Maybe that is now happening. If there should be any major change during the next year, I may be on my way to Havana. Of course, I could still move to Mexico and leave my options open for Cuba.


Babs said...

Well, Steve, if you move to Mexico and get an FM-3, then you travel in and out of Mexico as a Mexican resident. Many, many people travel that don't even carry your passport! Gayle, a flamenco dancer from Santa Cruz Ca. and I have been talking of going - she's already been once and I'm DYING to go! I have talked to a couple of Americans who have attempted to live there by traveling in from Canada or wherever and they said it was not easy to live there - truly, unless you're used to hunger. Sad.......for the people but I STILL want to go! I want to see the architecture and the national parks........and of course the people!

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- It is a lovely (and sad) country. I enjoyed working with the Salvation Army officers there. And I can return legally with the Salvation Army.

The big problem, for me, would be getting permission from the Cuban government to stay for an extended period of time. When I was preparing to go last time, the Cuban government had just arrested a group of Czech aid workers because they were raising inconvenient human rights questions. It appears that the day of being able to travel freely may be within sight.

Anonymous said...

Steve - It will be interesting to see where you land now that I read this - Cubans escape to Mexico every chance they get - Mexico deals with Cubans like America deals with Mexican undocumented immigration.

There is incredible poverty - HUGE class distinction - and for those who are on the other side of the poverty thing - it is very expensive.

I can't imagine wanting to live under such conditions including communism.

"The big problem, for me, would be getting permission from the Cuban government to stay for an extended period of time." NO this probably won't be the "big" problem - there will be a whole bunch of other "big" problems.

Good luck on your decision making - I hope you find your way.

Juan Calypso

Steve Cotton said...

John --

Your comments are all true. Cuba struck me as one of the saddest and poorest places I have ever visited. A government official was showing me around old town Havana. He just finished a list of revolution accomplishments -- the last of which was the elimination of beggars. He no more finished saying that than a woman who looked as poor as any Huichol held out her hand and asked for money. The government official responded: "Ignore her. She doesn't need it." I saw that same elitist attitude over and over again. That is why I want to return to help the Salvation Army with its work. When the socialist structure collapses -- which it will -- there will be much that needs to be set right. I would like to help. I would help right now, but the Cuban government simply will not permit it.

wayne said...

Interesting thought. I would love to visit Cuba but not until it is opened up and tourists are welcome. (and free to go where they want) I have heard too many horror stories from people returning to the island after taking the Mexican route over. I wonder if the deluge of refugee boats landing by my house will now stop?