Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Failed Attempt to Write About Cuba, #6

I'm trying to write about Cuba.

I arrived a month ago and stayed for nine days.
Last night I dreamed of the mangoes, a humid sweat interrupted at dawn with the rooster next door. Shifting back to sleep, I awoke a few hours later with aching bones from the lumpy mattress and the neighbor blaring Orishas from his stereo, feet away from my ear.

I'm trying to tell people about Cuba, but I get swamped by the senses, the feelings. I get overwhelmed by the details. After all, this country is in many ways radically different than the US. For starters,

A socialist country, even a nominally one, under an embargo of the world's last (and crippling) superpower, is vastly different than the world's largest economy and perpetrator/enforcer of mass, hallow, consumerism.

Talking to people about Cuba back in the states, I find that their heads are filled with misinformation, propaganda, and weird assumptions.

Don't they hate Americans there?
No, I say. In all my travels (35 and counting, not including Liechtenstein) no one's ever viewed me as the enemy or "hated" me because of where I'm from. Of course, I make pains to blend in or at least learn something of where I'm traveling –I once knocked an old farmer outside of Saigon to the ground with laughter with my fledging phrases in Vietnamese.

It also helps –no, is essential- not to travel with any sort of "American #1" patriot attitude. It works well in the movies –shown to Americans, who return to mimic what they see- but not traveling. Especially in countries we've obliterated (short list of countries I've been to that have been blatantly obliterated by the US: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Germany, Japan; covertly obliterated: El Salvador, Guatemala; severely fucked with: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma… ok, now I'm just listing places)

Damn, this is completely tangential. Maybe I should put it on my blog…

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