Blogging from Cuba: Keeping Connected

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Blogging is a funny business. For most of us it’s bad business – even when we learn to adapt, monetize, and optimize. These were some of the conclusions drawn at TBEX ’10, the Travel Bloggers Exchange hosted in NYC this summer. I couldn’t attend, unfortunately, but Here is Havana was (thrillingly!) featured in the keynote.

I’m a notoriously bad capitalist (see note 1), so it’s par for the course that I should be dedicating hours to an endeavor that costs me money instead of accruing it (see note 2). Not surprisingly, writing has always been a difficult means for me to make ends meet. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a pretty tough negotiator when it comes to contracts and I don’t (usually) work for less than the market can bear, but somehow I never figured blogging into my revenue stream.

But after many conversations with friends up north and a spate of articles about the slow, but inevitable decline of traditional publishing – like some kind of chronic disease of the printed word that can be managed but not cured – I realize I must adapt or die.

I like to think that at least a few readers have felt motivated to buy my guidebooks or iapp after landing here, but truth be told, I’m not in this for the sales or to funnel traffic to my website. Here is Havana isn’t even about bagging a book deal (see note 3). I blog because it keeps me writing and because I harbor hopes that what I write here reveals a slice of life unimagined or a side of Cuba many folks don’t – or won’t – see.

Blogging also keeps me connected. Friends and family tell me they read HIH because it helps them stay abreast of my daily doings. Meanwhile, people I’ve never met have told me that HIH contains some of the best writing on Cuba they’ve come across. I don’t know about that, but I do know that for me, blogging is about writing as I see it and occasionally illuminating a dark corner or two.

A lot of you I know either personally or virtually. Some of you I work with, share blood with, or chat with on various travel sites and fora. But strangers wind up here too. And how they do is often odd, sometimes funny, and once in a while enlightening. Combing through the search terms people use to reach Here is Havana is brilliant procrastination of course, but it also helps me keep my finger on the pulse. What is it really, that people want to know about this enigmatic place? Sometimes what people search on to find me leaves me with a furrowed brow and comic book question mark above my head. (I’m quite sure, for instance, that I’ve never written on Cuban porn or heroin. Maybe they meant Cuban pork and heroines?)

What’s important, of course, is not how you found me but that you did. Sometimes sitting here in my stifling office with the neighbor cooking so close I can just about reach into her pots, I feel the sugarcane curtain descend. The isolation; the 56k dial up; the US chokehold which is as brutal and failed as a loveless marriage.

So I dedicate this post to you, dear readers. For finding me and keeping me connected and giving me lots of food for thought with search terms and phrases like these:

*Oatmeal Survival – Been there, done that. Decades later, I still can’t touch the stuff.

*Do you find nipples on chicharrones? – Indeed you do, I learned recently and it’s damn disconcerting.

*Pasta de oca – This is a surprisingly popular search term for a seriously unpopular foodstuff.

*Jesus, You Rock My World – Glad to see believers are lurking in our neck of the woods, although I’m quite sure they didn’t find whatever it was they were looking for here. (Punctuation points to this reader!)

*Cuban funerals – This is sad all the way around, but remains one of the all time top searches for random lands at HIH.

*Embalm in Cuba – Oh, the irony! The double entendre!

*Can I bring methadone through Cuban customs? – Did this reader find out the hard way, I wonder?

*Pizza cheese condom Cuba – Clearly that last word is superfluous…

*Garlic millionaires – Yup! We got them (and with the new economic changes afoot, we’ll soon have tomato and onion and rice millionaires too).

*Cuba iPhone porn – You wish.

*Drugs to make fisting easy – Ditto. (Just as an aside, I have never seen ‘fisting’ and ‘easy’ in the same sentence before or since, so mark a point for originality).

*Characteristics of a Cuban boyfriend – We should talk.

*Is August in Havana too hot? – That’s rhetorical, right?

*How do you avoid sand fleas in Cuba?The question is: how do you survive sand fleas in Cuba? Avoidance is clearly not an option.

*Honey is back and she’s in the streets – I, for one, would like to meet this street walking Honey. Sounds like a hooker with a heart of gold.


1. One of the reasons why I always felt Cuba would be a better fit for me. Little did I know that Cubans are some of the savviest, most savage capitalists around!

2. See Merriam Webster’s entry for ‘guidebook writer.’

3. OK, maybe just a little!


Filed under Americans in cuba, cuban cooking, Living Abroad, Writerly stuff

10 responses to “Blogging from Cuba: Keeping Connected

  1. Catymogo

    “Is Havana too hot in August?” is somewhere near “Will my spf 15 protect me in hell?” and just past “My boobs are sweating 😦 “

  2. So happy I found your blog! 🙂

  3. Totally weird, Twilight moment: reveiwing the search terms used to find HIH today, there appears someone is searching (con nombre y apellido!) for a friend of mine.

    This is not a famous friend – not Santiago or Rancano – but rather someone from a not too small town in another province. I can’t remember ever mentioning him here, but somewhere out there we have mutual friends!

  4. I found your blog yesterday and have spent the last two days reading through all your old blog posts. This has definitely become one of my favourite blogs. 🙂

    I’m really interested in Latin American culture as I’m planning to travel around there next year and (eventually) get a job as a TEFL teacher (which I’m studying for). Cuba’s a country I’ve long been fascinated with and I find it really refreshing to read about it through the eyes of someone who really lives there.

    • Well, thanks!! Latin America is forever fascinating to me too (which is probably why Ive had a really hard time exploring outside this hemisphere – there’s just so much to see and do!).

      For all of you folks who dream of traveling and working, TEFL (teaching english as a foreign language) might be just the ticket.

      Gracias again for reading – feel free to let your friends know about Here is Havana!

      Happy travels

  5. champagne

    I think your blog is a nice balance of the personal and the informative with a good dose of obversational humour. I only recently started reading blogs and found most of them self absorbed drivel or political ranting. It is great to find something well written and worth reading.

    A lot of the time with blogs I feel like saying ………who gives a f***. THe web is very democratic and I suppose there is a place for everyone. And the thing is how to get good at finding the ones worth reading.

    I read one in Goa, one in Bali and yours in Cuba.

    Let me know when the book is ready for my macbook! just checking out how much itouch costs.

  6. Cheers to you too Champagne!
    Thanks for the words of encouragement. I find a lot of blogs pompous, ignorant, boring or (egads!) all three at once. The fatal trifecta.
    One good source for some interesting writing is here
    Matador has some good writers in general…
    happy 2011.

  7. larry

    Just wanted to say keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Larry, I needed that. Traffic is down, sales of Havana Good Time have slumped horribly and my short story (yes, about Havana; yes, secrets are revealed!) needs a heavy rewrite. Plus I have a cold. Off to make some chicken soup and muse on my next post….

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