Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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We all have shadow elements in our personalities. The attributes that reside in our blind side are clear to others but never to ourselves. Nations have not only espionage in the dark, but also shadow aspects of culture, hidden from the national personality. This explains why nationalism often leads to irrational pride as well as prejudice against people we do not know. We learned about torture by the CIA and without examination of the facts most Americans decided it was okay under the circumstances. What is so odd about that is they knew nothing about the circumstances. When the news broke that Cuba and the US would begin to talk about resuming relations, many Americans recoiled in horror because they don’t understand what the status quo entails. Nobody else in the world has an embargo against Cuba, and the US dollar is the official currency of the island. They make lots of money from tourism, including from plenty of Americans who travel on flights through Mexico, or on their big fat yachts. There is nothing to loose by resuming a diplomatic relationship, and much to gain.
I went to Havana through Miami in about 1995. I bought my package through a tour agency but did not apply for a special visa. I went to the airport and was allowed to board the plane with the Cubans from Miami who had permission in those days to visit a couple of times a year. There was a grand inquisition at the Miami airport and the CIA busted some people in the holding room who had money..more cash than was permitted. Dogs were brought in and detected the extra currency. I had a ticket but no specific study agenda in Cuba. The immigration officer at Miami international asked me what I was going to do in Cuba. I responded that I planned to study dance. I produced a tiny slip of note paper with my teacher’s address in Havana. He asked where I had met her. I told him in a dance workshop in Tucson. He turned to the dozen or so CIA dudes there and said, “If you believe her, she can go”. I went!! The Cubans on the flight were quite amazed that I made it on the flight. I was the last one out of the Havana airport because I was not carrying a “gusano”, a giant duffle bag full of goods, which are taxed by Cuba. They were puzzled when I told them I did not know anyone in Cuba and would not give away my things. I flew back to Miami with nothing at all. I gave away all my clothes, toothpaste, pens, and the suitcase itself.
I spent 4 days, and visited both my dance teacher and the family of a Cuban friend of mine. She gave me cash and asked me to take them out to a fancy dinner. It was all arranged at the buffet in my hotel. Only foreign tourists are allowed in the hotels. Since I had invited them, they had the rare privilege to experience the tourist facilities in their own city. They dressed up heavily and came at all hours of the day to see me. Since we were sitting in the lobby or in the dining room I had no problems with the staff. When I asked about bringing my dance teacher to the pool for a swimming lesson, that was quite another matter. The pool staff and the housekeeper in my room told me I would NEVER get a Cuban into that pool. This housekeeper had been invited by her own aunt, who was a hotel guest visiting from Spain, but was not permitted to sit poolside. I took this as a challenge, and convinced the concierge that it would be too embarrassing for me to retract the swim invitation I had already made to my friend. I whipped out the Spanish word pena, and wallowed in it. The argument took a while, but eventually I wore her down and was given a special permission to borrow a kick board for the use of a Cuban in the hotel pool. We had our lesson with many hotel staff members looking on in both shock and admiration. I won my personal little social revolution in the pool, and felt very satisfied.
I learned a lot while I was there. Since that time much has changed, and is obviously soon will change more rapidly. What struck me about the Cuban people was their resourcefulness and affection for life. They are the kings cariño, and the soul musicians and dancers of the Caribbean. They cook, they laugh, they party, they dance, in seriously limited circumstances. They accept the fact that their revolution has resulted in repression and dictatorship, and yet they still have pride in that revolution. They suffer from economic problems we do not imagine, and respond with creativity. I thought when I went that the relations between our countries would be resolved soon. Then Elian Gonzalez came to Miami in 2003, and was deported back to Cuba. Laws changed, visiting rights were withdrawn, and we slipped into another decade of the same separatist policy. I am not sure I will go to Cuba again, but do recommend it for anyone interested in music, architecture or tropical culture. There is no need for us to remain clueless about Cuba. There is much to learn about the rise and fall of communism. While we were busy being excessive about capitalism, they were busy with their communist revolution. The results vary, gentle readers. Neither communism nor capitalism has yielded such fabulous peace on earth. Let’s get over our ancient political categories to examine the potential for good. This deal was brokered by the cutest Pope in the Vatican, my man Francis. I am pleased that higher logic is being used to resolve this issue.
One of my American friends was a photographer in Cuba during the crisis. It all sounded quite appalling. I’m glad things are finally resolving