As I read the article, images from the opening scene of Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza swept through my mind. Music pulsated while aristocratically dressed men and women danced into the early morning hours. Drinks flowed, diamonds sparkled and a modern day Renaissance embarked. Yet instead of a backdrop of stone facade palaces and the pristine robes worn by orders of the Catholic Church, the peeling colors of deteriorating buildings covered in the scaffolding of restoration was the backdrop to this scene. The Eternal City was nowhere to be found nor was the spicy lyrics of A Far L’Amore Comincia Tu. The location was Havana. A new Havana. One where a modern rebirth is about to flourish and decadence begins to override the once restricted country.
This week, my colleague shared with me an article that upon reading, I immediately felt the need to formulate some response. We have heard it over and over again – the Cuba of the past 53 years is no longer. Americans and Europeans alike are descending upon the country in numbers never yet seen with their American values and their American dollars.
“The foreigners visiting Havana used to be Canadians and Europeans on cheap beach package tours and left-leaning Americans on dutiful rounds of organic farms and neighborhood health clinics. Ten months after the U.S. and Cuba declared the end of a half-century of official hostility, the mood in Havana has changed,” the article declares. A modern day gold-rush they call it.
With only a week before I depart on a journey to Cuba, I feel a great sense of immediacy. This coming year, as top ten lists are published across the globe, as National Geographic, AFAR, Time and Lonely Planet compile their end of year lists, Cuba will definitely be towards the top, maybe even holding the top position, exposing it even further to millions and millions across the globe.
Everyday at my job, I speak with people from across the country with an interest in traveling to Cuba “before it changes” but the truth is the change has already begun. My premonition is that Cuba will not feel the full force of US tourism until the end of 2016. Right now they are in a stage of chaos but hope. Everything is unsteady yet new ideas and new ways are being implemented. Americans in the know, with an interest in social, political and cultural factors, not just in Cuba but globally, are the ones picking up the phone and I have enjoyed speaking with about their travel intentions.
My advice is, if you want a truth-leaning journey to Cuba, you’ll travel there before the end of 2016.
I doubt my time in Cuba will be one of evening grandeur in sweltering clubs knocking back mojito after mojito. I can hardly see the appeal to this kind of trip, one many of my fellow Americans, if you believe the article, are engaging in. My colleagues and I know a much deeper, intricate culture and people. And for now, I hope to leave in the same manner as when I finished viewing La Grande Bellezza – with a developed understanding of a truly fascinating culture.