Going on vacation…in Cuba?!?!
While this notion once was seemingly impossible to consider—because that was the case until a short while ago—it’s now easier than ever to plan a tropical retreat to this mystical island just miles south of Key West. Made possible by the Obama administration in 2016, the trade embargo between Cuba and the U.S. was “eased up” allowing Americans to procure goods and to visit, now making it a highly sought after travel destination for Americans. But is the attraction simply because we weren’t allowed to step on the soil before? Or, perhaps, it’s because it offers an experience so unique, we didn’t even know what we were missing!
Either way it’s perceived, adventure awaits us all.
So while trade is becoming more normalized to get some goods more easily in the states, one of the most unique aspects of personally setting foot in the country is that the nearly 50 years of isolation has made Cuba feel more like a time machine than a tropical island. In fact, it’s the largest and least commercialized island in the Caribbean. This has only added to Cuba’s charm, described by many that it feels like a living museum with time seeming to stop the moment you touch the ground. Nearly all of the buildings were built prior to 1958 and most of the cars on the streets are models from the 1950s, which CNN captured the essence beautifully as part of a Chanel fashion show a few seasons back (2016). This is because Fidel Castro banned car imports, leaving the locals with the task of coming up with different ways to preserve the vehicles they had at the time. When you walk around, you are consumed by an era most of us never experienced—and suddenly can’t get enough.
Unlike America, there is a shockingly refreshing lack of consumerism throughout the island. There are no chain businesses at all—except those for the military personnel located at Guantanamo Bay—so all of the shops and restaurants one may encounter are eclectic and family owned. So instead of the streets being lined with posters and billboards advertising the latest item on the McDonald’s dollar menu, they’re filled with beautiful murals and eclectic tile designs. And music. Tons and tons of vibrant music fills the air!
To that degree, there is no one type of Cuban music, as the sound has been influenced by a myriad of different regions across the globe. From Africa to Europe, and you can walk into almost any bar across the island and hear salsa, rumba, jazz, merengue—or a mixture of them all. One of the most famous and original acts to capture the essence of the Cuban sound is The Buena Vista Social Club, which for generations spread its intoxicatingly groovy sounds internationally, and thus has influenced bands across all genres, including Major Lazer who most recently became one of the first contemporary artists to perform a free concert in 2016 for more than 400,000 Cubans in Havana’s infamous Tribuna Antiimperialista – something never before possible.
And the music isn’t just a nighttime passion either, as the locals like to sit outside along the streets and play instruments, sing and dance pretty much daily. From a young age, the importance of music is engrained in their culture; Cuban students receive a large amount of musical education, approximately 3,600 hours of lessons throughout their 12 years of schooling. I mean, how can you not get your cha-cha on with that kind of training?!
All things considered, it’s easy to see how Cuba might have seemed like a world of its own, an unattainable destination. Yet now, Americans can finally go and appreciate this culture that was once oh-so-strictly off limits, never before a possibility, so now is the time to visit and experience everything this mysterious place has preserved for centuries. Oh, did I mention that there are no lethal animals or plants on the entire island? Consider it an added bonus, but nonetheless…adventure awaits!