The 2nd most interesting destination Ruth & I travelled to last year was Cuba. It was in January so the brief thaw in relations that resulted in a large increase in American visitors after President Obama went to Cuba in 2016 was still in effect. Things have changed.
The main travel article in Sunday’s The New York Times was about Tony Perrottet’s journey to Cuba’s Isle of Youth. Once a prison where a young Fidel Castro served time, this island off Cuba’s southwest coast was settled by farmers from California and Iowa before that. After the Fidel Castro take-over, the Isle of Youth became a “Communist education center” according to Perrottet. Now it’s being promoted as an ecotourism destination. I wish that Perrottet had said exactly when he went there but he didn’t. The closest he came to telling the reader when he was there was when he mentioned a summer heat wave. Was it summer, 2017? It makes a difference.
Perrottet or The New York Times editors mention recent travel restrictions put in place by the Trump Administration. Now, travel to Cuba should involve making arrangements through an authorized travel agent to assure compliance with U. S. guidelines even though travel need not be with a group. It is recommended that tours and flights be booked with U.S. based Cuban Educational Travel. Ecotour is said to be the best island agency. I don’t fully understand what the new restrictions are, but I do know that Alaska Airlines will drop flights from LA to Cuba after January 22.
A marine biologist named David Guggenheim mentioned in The New York Times article explained to Perrottet that “Cuba is unique in the Western Hemisphere for its near total lack of coastal development”. This seems at odds with The Economist‘s report in December, 2017, that Hurricane Irma so damaged Cuba’s north coast and its tourist resorts that 86-year-old Raul Castro, who planned to retire from the Cuban Presidency in 2018, is considering staying on. This change-of-plan for Castro is speculation at present. Will so much uncertainty, however, I’m not sure I’d be going to Cuba right now.
The Department of State is telling U.S. citizens not to go to Cuba, a warning last updated in November, 2017. The reason the Government issued this no-travel advisory is the fact that employees in the Embassy in Havana have been attacked, resulting in “significant injuries” and the perps and causes have not been determined. “Attacks have occurred in U. S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U. S. Citizens,” the Department of State reports.
I sometimes felt uneasy while in Cuba but never threatened. These are, indeed, strange times.