Here is Havana – A blog written by the gringa next door, conspires to give you a dose of what life is really like across the Straits.
Partly out of boredom (that blue meanie for all sorts of odd motivations here), and partly because I’m fed up with all the self-serving, politically-motivated, misinformed, or just plain stupid mierda being written about Cuba, I’ve decided to start a blog. It’s a reluctant undertaking for so many reasons…
Here is Havana is navel-gazing, cathartic venting at its best and worst. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to kiss on the Malecón, go to the doctor for free, smoke tasty 5 cent cigars, or forgo toilet paper, welcome to Havana.
Other passions and perturbations of life here you’ll read about include baseball, my fledgling garden, machismo, the Cuban kitchen, my favorite little old ladies (who have more spunk than your average 22-year old from Omaha), rock ‘n roll withdrawal, the “wireless network found” icon that harasses me as I’m connected via 50k dial up, and other ironies.
On a slow day, you might even read about those old cars that make visitors wet and dewy-eyed, but for us are simply a way to get from point A to point B.
What you read here is 100% my opinion and experience after 18 years (and counting) working as an American journalist in Havana. I have no agenda. I aim to sway no one. In Cuban, this translates as ella no está en na’. A high compliment, rarely paid.
For all you rabid extremists out there who will slam what I say, no matter what or how I say it, repeat after me: ella no está en na’. And please, take a chill pill or three while you’re at it.
Here is Havana – like you never dreamed.
If you’d like to join the conversation, please feel free to comment on whatever strikes your fancy. If you’re looking to hire an experienced and passionate writer with more on-the-ground, current Cuba info than most anyone, contact me. If you’re in Havana and hankering for a coffee, smoothie, lemonade, great literature or a hammock, stop by the community project I founded in 2013, Cuba Libro.
PS – For the meaning behind the title of this blog, plus more musings, see my work in progress, Here is Havana.
PPS – All text, photos, graphics, artwork and other material on Here is Havana are copyrighted and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
216 responses to “About”
Ok when are you going to discuss the racism, violation of human rights and the fact that my country will swept up in the storm of capitalism, drug dealing, grift, graft and the almighty snatch and grab (like africa) the resources.
My man, you must be blind or perpetrating a fraud and unless you were born in Cuba,(7 yrs) you do not know a thing.
Now, when your ready..i will give u facts
Ah Matancera mía – that’s why the world has people like you and Yoany.
You’ve obviously come to the wrong blog.
hello Milagros; Is it possible that you leave me some contact? I am working on a book, I would gladly get in contact with you. Anja
Met you at the MLK Center in Havana numbers of years ago. I have been to the Island many times….taking WFP groups, P4P, and solo.
Somehow, I just discovered your blog and devoured the pieces. LOVE IT!
Hi Ellen! I remember you well (still fighting the good fight I assume?!) thanks for reading and spread the word! Im shooting to crack 12 readers this year! Paz y abrazos
Conner–we also met through a Witness for Peace delegation outside Cienfuegos, I think; then again on another trip, back at the CMLK. I loved your attitude even then, and now that we’ve had several MORE years of absurd politics (perhaps on both sides of the straits), your no-mierda style of writing and analysis is even more refreshing, and needed. Like Ellen above (a close friend), I’ve been there often and remain a rational advocate for la isla–so much to be learned by keeping one’s eyes open and one’s mind free. I look forward to lots more noticias on your blog–the first I’ve EVER participated in. Thanks——–Beth
Thanks for your kind, thoughful words. Yes, crazy stupid politics – even the WfP delegations stopped coming for a few years. Hurts everyone all around I figure. The rest of this year looks rough (we’re all praying we’re spared any hurricanes) – and we’re going to need all the good vibes/energy/fight everyone has to give….
Blogging is not my cup of writing tea, but I love having readers like you! Please pass along the link to anyone you think may be interested.
So glad I stumbled on this blog. I’ve been going for research trips for the past five years or so, but never something like this. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Hola Anne and thanks for reading. For those of you in the US who aren’t familiar with “research trips” these are one of the few remaining ways US residents and citizens can “legally” visit Cuba. For more you can check out http://www.marazul.com
What are you researching Anne, if you don’t mind me asking?
Now how did I miss this blog? Nice to have first-person accounts from someone who’s first instinct is not to portray every little thing that doesn’t work in Cuba as a personal failure of Fidel or Raúl. My compliments, and my regards….
Hi Mark! Thanks for reading and more to the point – thanks for getting it! Cuba is complex and much, (oh so much) more than simply the Castro family and Yoani. It’s complex, and nuanced, and besieged from without – anyone who leaves this out of the analysis is missing the point. Which is why I always tell people to come check it out for themselves.
Please, pass on the blog to others – Im shooting for a million hits a month (though don’t have the translating team to get Here is Havana out there in 16 languages like Ms Sanches!)
No need to crtitizise Yoani Sanchez with a Z in case you don’t know after I don’t know how many years living in Cuba that Spanish names usually end up with a Z and in case you don’t know the name of that lady…You write what you like (or maybe what you are allowed to) about Cuba and she writes what she wants. That is the thing about the Internet, unlike in Cuba, there is freedom of speech…there is space for everyone and anyone can read both of you and use their brain to make up their mind about Cuba…you probably represent the point of view of an idealistic left-wing priviledged gringa living under the sun and she has the point of view of a pragmatic left-wing priviledged Cuban living under dictatorship. I read both and make up my mind, this is why God gave me a brain, no need to tell me what I have to think! I have sometime translated some Cuban blogs, I will be happy to translate some of your posts if you wish so…for nothing, just as I do for the others. Sanchez does not have a team of translators, just good-will citizens around the world who are happy to allow free opinion about Cuba to come out of this unfree country.
“You write what you like (or maybe what you are allowed to) about Cuba and she writes what she wants. That is the thing about the Internet, unlike in Cuba, there is freedom of speech”
And yet, we’re both blogging from Cuba so…I think you might want to hone your point.
“this is why God gave me a brain”
Im more of a Darwinist myself but no matter where you believe the grey matter came from, it’s what you do with it, no?
“idealistic left-wing priviledged [sic] gringa living under the sun”
I definitely agree with the gringa and sun part. Im whiter than white and the sun down here is bah-lazing!
Thanks for the translation offer but I think Ill pass…
Sounds like we have a bit in common, starting with Cuba and Guatemala. I’ll be at the Nacional for a week beginning Dec. 29, please get in touch if you have time.
Just happened upon your wonderful blog. So glad so see a bs – free perspective lived, considered, and beautifully written. Did you know my friend Jane McManus (speaking of lively older women)? I visited her there in ’03 I think it was.
Hola Art – glad you landed here and thanks for your support! Life is hard, interesting, instructive and confusing no matter where you are or how you live it and I think one of our duties as humans is to consider that life and how we can make it more just, equitable, peaceful, and maybe, just maybe, better understood. That’s what Id like to do anyway and I think that’s part of the magic of travel and learning about other cultures. The writing part is where it gets tough and sometimes frustrating. One great shortcoming is the English language – there’s a cast of thousands in my life who can’t read what I write due to the language barrier. It makes me morose sometimes and makes me wish I was a musician or painter always – I envy folks who can communicate their ideas without words.
Jane’s name rings a bell, but I didn’t know her.
So pleased to find your blog after reading a travel writers comments on it. I never wanted to visit Cuba only because everyone I knew in Canada experienced the all-inclusive Cuba…never venturing off site because Cuba was too dangerous. I hate all-inclusivity and decided to make my trip more widespread.
I spent 3 weeks travelling from Baracoa to Maria La Gorda and staying in Casa Particulars. Probably the best experience of my life – and I cannot say enough about Cuba and its people, however no one at home believes me….
oh and your reference to the TP crisis made me hoot! Thanks and I look forward to reading the rest.
Welcome to our world! Thanks so much for writing in – your experience is exactly why I always (gently) advise people to come to Cuba to see it, feel it, smell it, talk to folks and draw their own conclusions. And your comment about your friends not leaving the AIs because Cuba is “too dangerous” made ME hoot! Could ANYTHING be farther from the truth?
Isn’t Maria la Gorda marvelous? The hubby and I (plus 10 of my family members!) spent our honeymoon there.
So when will you be back?!
not soon enough! I thought Senor Esrock did a great job writing about it, didn’t you.
I could live in Havana…easy. but I have too many places on my bucket list to visit yet. however I can’t resist planning a quicky Cuba trip inbetween. I have amigos/and a madre that would love to join me should I. And of course meeting wonderful people like yourself beckons me back. I WILL RETURN.
su amiga Andrea aka cabochick
Just stopped over here from Matador (you responded to my backpack recommendation question – thanks!). I’m definitely hooked. Women like you are (and always will be) my inspiration. I’m just now getting up the nerve to start doing what I really want with my life, and while my writing and travel experiences are still juvenile in comparison, I hope one day to be as “at home” with not being at home as you.
Hi there Katie! Thanks for stopping over and mucha suerte with your 2 month odyssey to Costa Rica.
READERS: this woman is Funny! She can also write (how refreshing!). Check out her blog Domestiphobia
So I got a couple of hits on my blog today from this page, and I never saw your response to my comment (over 2 years later!) until just now. That is just… the nicest EVER.
By the way, I just quit my job (again). Going to try to make the writing thing really happen this time. Also, I want to go to Cuba. I’ll let you know when/if I ever make it happen. 😉
Make it happen! Make it all happen!
For future reference: I think there’s a “check this box for follow-up comments” or some such which allows you to see who comments on your comments. Id be more specific but this connection is maddening eg 15 minutes 40 seconds to post this response!
Make it happen! Make it all happen!
For future reference: I think there’s a “check this box for follow-up comments” or some such which allows you to see who comments on your comments. Id be more specific but this connection is maddening eg 15 minutes 40 seconds to post this response!
Hi there Ole. I invite you to take another look at the regulations for US citizens to travel to Cuba. How, exactly, do I qualify? Under what designation? believe me, Ive taken a microscope to the things!! If it were that easy, wouldnt US folks be marrying cuban folks left and right to get a “free pass”
I have never had a problem with Cuban immigration or Customs. zero. nil. zilch.
Have fun at the 15era!
Hahaha! I love that story – especially the rhinestone belt. Niiiiiiiice!
I just wanted to say, like most who post comments on this website, that I really love your writing and am inspired by your life. I visited Cuba in 2002 and it is, and always will be, one of the highlights of my life. I know that it is a complicated place and that many people have many opinions about it, but I have learned so much by traveling there and so much more because of traveling there in the years since I returned.
Hi Michelle and mil gracias for your kind words.
What you write strikes a chord: “Cuba..is and always will be one of the highlights of my life.” Im sure many readers of Here is Havana share this sentiment, including me, your humble scribe. It has also been for me personally, one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. I believe all travel is a learning experience, but the complicated, joyful, funny, sexy and smart place that is Cuba is just that much more….instructive.
That’s why I can’t stay away! happy travels
Hi Conner! Found your blog from a comment on Johnny Vagabond’s post. I have always been so fascinated by Cuba, it’s politics, and how there are so many diverse and yet very intense reactions/opinions about the country. My partner and I are currently traveling around the U.S. in an RV and just got to Miami. In just a few days we have become completely smitten with Little Havana, although with our limited Spanish we’ve had difficulties engaging with folks as much as we’d like. 🙂 I’m really excited that I found your blog and I can’t wait to read a ton more about your experiences!
Hiya. I tried commenting on your Little Havana post but WordPress thought I was Spam. harumph!!
Your post about wanting to get people talking and then not being able to shut them up is hilarious – and spot on. Seems there’s a lot that Little and Original Havana have in common!!
Stooopid WordPress spam plug-ins! I had no idea the plug-in was spamming all comments, so I appreciate you letting me know! 🙂
Hi Conner! I’ve been reading your blog and it’s great. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your life and experiences with us. I’m heading to Cuba with a friend of mine in February and I appreciate all the information that you’ve provided for people like myself that are interested in Cuba and travel in general. I always buy Lonely Planet guides for the destinations that I’m travelling to… you are so lucky to get to write for them. You have my dream
job! If I could get paid to travel and write, I would be in heaven!
Take care 🙂
muchas gracias Donna! Right now, with two huge deadlines looming, my job feels more like a nightmare than a dream!
Have a great trip!
Hi, just came across your blog while trying to find a reference for my frriend explaining what a jamaliche means in Cuba. Loved your https://hereishavana.wordpress.com/2009/07/24/la-yuma-jamaliche/ and am going through your other articles. I lived in Cuba myself between 1987 – 1994.
Hola and thanks for stopping by. Jamaliche soy yo and what’s funny is my 7 month old niece (whoa is that a hunka, hunka cuban love right there!!) is also showing signs of being one – can she put away that malanga!!. even at such a young age
1987-94: very interesting times to be living here. saw the best and the not so. I have SO any friends who get dewey eyed about the late 80s before the fall, when the peso had value.
Here’s an app to help you, or any other gringa journalist (lol) in Havana.
OOOH! Thanks for this. Of course I can’t download here in Havana (iTunes is blocked thanks to the bloqueo), but I’ll definitely check this out! Dichos have fascinated me these past 9 years.
PS – Im sure you’ve seen my post about “el camarón que se duerme & quimbobó que rebala”
Nice to find some balance. Most of the blogs I read are negative and somehow connected to Yoani Sanchez or Claudia Cadelo, so it is nice to read some things more positive, even when they are negative. I had a wonderful visit to Santa Lucia in Holguin province last week and saw much to be positive about, the gardens, the optimism, I wished I could’ve stayed. Back next month with the kids, my son and daughter’s first time in Cuba, and they are so excited! What a culture shock that’s going to be with no MacDonald’s or WIFI for their iPods!
“I wish I could have stayed” – I think you’ve put into words what many many visitors to cuba feel.
And yes – no McDs or Wifi. It can be challenging for teens especially. They’re used to quite a different reality. Have a wonderful trip.
PS – I know I sound like a broken record but I always rec’d first time Cuba travelers write down what they expect to find here before arriving and then write during or after their trip what they experienced. It’s wild to compare the two….
Absolutely amazing blog, written from neutral perspective. I am a member of a political group in Spain (where I live) where we got a subgroup trying to support Cuba. If it’s allright with you I can pass the URL of your blog to them, some of them have been there many times and some are preparing for a first visit to La Isla. I’m sure all of them would be very interest in your writings.
How did you manage to emigrate to Cuba? From what I was told you need a working permit supplied by a local employer, but I would take it with a grain of salt given the many contradicting info spread about Cuba…
Hey G. Absolutely!! Let them know about Here is Havana. Ive said it before, but it bears repeating: first time visitors, try this: write down all you expect to experience and see in Cuba before you come. While here, write down your impressions. Compare the versions. You may be surprised!
I know idevice use isn’t huge in Spain, but if any of your companeros/as have an iphone/touch/pad, please let them know about my iapp Havana Good Time, available here: http://sutromedia.com/apps/Havana_Good_Time
About emigrating here: there’s no set formula. Ask a dozen people how they made life possible in Cuba and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Securing work via a work permit from a local employer IS possible but it’s the real long shot for most people since you need specialized skills, Spanish fluency (usually) and contacts. Things, however, are changing on this front and more opportunities will likely be had in the future if we can keep our head above water.
PS Glad you like the blog. it’s a labor o’ love
Regarding the emigration issue (as I don’t want to distract too much at your blog), do you mind sending me a little email? I rather don’t publish my email address publically (those evil spambots are everywhere) but you probably can see it as you’re the administrator of the blog.
I will tell the people in my political movement about your blog next time we get together, I’m sure several of them will be very interested. I also posted a link to your blog on a Dutch-language (that’s my mothertongue) discussion board on Cuba. Keep up the good work!
Hola Gerrit. Thanks for writing in. I’ve met many great Dutch folks in my travels over the years, so it’s nice to have you here! (on a complete side note: they’ve been showing a Toto concert filmed in Amsterdam here for the past two weeks on Cuban TV. Probably no one in the band realizes that ‘toto’ in Cuban is slang for vagina!)
Please note readers: I can’t really advise on emigration issues. It is very hard (and getting harder) to reside in Cuban as a foreigner. Bureaucraticallly speaking….
Love the blog and looking forward to discovering much, much more about Cuba from the inside!
Thanks Margaret! Anyone itching to learn about Chile should head straightaway to this long time expat’s blog
Been reading your blog about the coffee situation. Great stuff. I have been drinking FRENCH MARKET Coffee all my life, the chicory blend is the New Orleans favorite. Shall I send you a can? I have posted your blog’s URL on the Miami Herald.com. Expect the Good, the Bad and the Ugly! lol. Have you ever eaten at Carmelo’s? My fav funky place. Keep On Blogging.
Hola SD! Skip the coffee and offer me cargo/passenger space on the South Florida-Havana ferry you’re getting off the ground! (good luck BTW – w/b a great option for getting across the Straits)
Don’t know Carmelo’s. Send me details: love learning about new places.
I never read blogs, but this is one that I will definitely keep coming back to.. I’ve been plotting my getaway to Cuba since I was 12. Your insights are great and from what I can tell, having spent only 48 hours in Havana, really on point. (Right now, I’m thinking back to that entry you posted, ‘Proyecto Runway,’ which had me cracking up). Anyway, I just finished my senior thesis on la ELAM and read somewhere (probably on the matador website) that you write for MEDICC… I’m wondering if you could post a link to some of your articles or let me know where I can find them? Thanks again for the great reading!
Hola Anna. Wow, it always plucks at my writerly heart strings when someone tells me ‘I never read blogs, but…..’ Mil gracias for that and please do keep coming back!
Did I tell you about the fashion? I was just at a quicenera and well, it was just incredible to see these 13 year old gnomes wearing the giant spinning playboy bunny belt buckles and the 14 year old chulas in their spiked heels and clinging minis.
MEDICC Review, for which I write, is available at http://www.medicc.org/mediccreview. I’ve also put a link on my blog roll so you can get there from my homepage of the blog as well. Once there, you’ll find many articles on ELAM, written by me and others. Search on my name, search on ELAM, and you’ll get the goods. Much luck on your thesis (and realizing your dream getaway. !si, se puede!
Found your blog when I was goggling how to translate “estas acabando” to English. I’m 20 and I left Havana when I was 13 but I adore my country and I go visit every year. I’m in the process of reading all of your posts, they are hilarious and make me go ” yeahh that’s so true and so funny” every five seconds. I normally don’t appreciate foreign people talking about Cuba, but I’m completely jealous of the talent you have to depict the reality of the island. Gracias y espero seguir leyendo mucho mas!
Milión de gracias Elizabeth! I am in need of positive reinforcement just now: in the past two days I was called “tia” for the first time (por dios. this is the kiss of death for any 40-something already nostalgic for youth!) and had a 70-year old piropeandome. Is this my future in Cuba?! Están acabando conmigo los cubanos!!
By the way – Im very interested in the reverse experience (ie Cubans in the yuma and how they adjust, cope, see things, etc). Feel free to comment or email me on the topic if you feel so inclined!
Hola! I love your blog!! I’m devouring it…. fabulously well written and so funny…I just came back from my 4th trip to Cuba…Santiago de Cuba and had to chuckle at the nickname section…I’ve been given mine lol.
Hope to visit Havana one day.. Thanks again for the wonderful read!
Thanks for stopping by and writing in D. So what is your cuban ‘apodo’? Happy travels!
I love your writing style, I’ve shared your blog with a few of my closest Cuba junky pals who are hooked just as I am 🙂
my apodo is nothing fancy…he just cut my name in 1/2 Dani or tries to say Sweetie…sounds more like sweaty. Mi prima’s nickname is much more inventive: Tatika. So, sorta makes me feel like chopped liver jajaja! we’ll have to get him to reassign a more suiting nickname, and not Mimi jaja
Thanks again for an amazing read!
Thanks for sharing Dani. I’ve often thought about writing about funky Cuban pronunciation – if some day I do, I’ll definitely include sweaty!!
My name is Glynn and I live in Melbourne Australia.
In April next year I am bringing a group of about 12 amateur photographers to Cuba to enjoy a couple of weeks of photography.
I’d love to chat to you privately about how to improve our visit by getting a bit deeper into the lifestyle than may be otherwise possible for us.
Great Glynn. You can contact me on: http://connergorry.com/contact.html
Also, you can suggest Havana Good Time for your participants with iPods/Pads. Great for getting geared up/excited for the trip!
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I’ve just discovered your blog and am loving it. The kisses along the Malecon, the rationing of toilet paper…it reminds me of the time I spent there, falling desperately in love with a Cuban man and staying much longer than anticipated. First date at Coppelia, followed by a walk along the Malecon.
I’ve now fallen in love with a Frenchman, so I’m living la vie francaise in Champagne, but still often think, wistfully, of Cuba and I have a great many memories there. If you’re interested, my blog on life in France is here: http://shannon-laviefrancaise.blogspot.com/
Hola Shannon! Thanks for feeling/sharing the love! Coppelia + Malecon is a brilliant first (or five hundreth) date. Hope my husband takes me both places soon. Dreamy! Good luck in Champagne!
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Shannon, do you have anything written on your experience living in Cuba and being in Love?
Your blog was recommended to me by a friend – expat – who lives in Havana. As we are planning a trip in January I am interested in learning as much as I can about Cuba. Thanks for writing.
Hiya Patty. Great strategy: reading up before you land. I wrote this article for Lonely Planet about “only in Cuba” which you may enjoy and if you have an ipad/phone, I highly recommend Havana Good Time, written by me. There are lots of resources on the web, too. Have a great trip.
Hola Conner! I pretty much only read blogs on Honduras. Now I can add Cuba to the short list! I just found your blog by chance thru Amazon and I truly wish I’d read it in June, before I went to Cuba for 10 days. I was finishing a masters and working and once completed, I left three days later…so not much time for surfing for Cuba info. I’m so glad to have found it now. Ten days was barely enough to scratch the surface of such a complicated and interesting place. I used to stand on the point in Key West and squint across the straights wondering, “what actually goes on over there?” To stand on the Malecón looking the other direction was a dream come true. I’ve traveled alone alot, but always knew somehow that traveling to Cuba alone would be a whole different story, and wow! I was so right. I had so many crazy and wonderful and awful experiences there, I have been thinking of writing about it myself! What a great place to go for life lessons too.
I was completely enchanted by the hospitality. As an American and first time traveler to Cuba, I was always short on cash. So I spent alot of time just talking to people. I told friends it would be perfectly safe for me to travel there alone…but that I didn’t think biking across Cuba alone would be a good idea. Now I think, biking alone would probably be ok too, except I would never get to Baracoa because I would be stopped hundreds of times and invited onto hundreds of porches for mango juice!
Even though I returned home with a UTI, most likely parasites from a food poisoning incident, and adrenal issues that have me taking an unheard of siesta everyday….I will return to Cuba and the new family I have there!
Hiya Stephanie. Thanks for stopping by! Honduras holds a dear place in my heart (esp. the garifuna, the maya and frente nacional de resistencia), so I know Im in good company. You should definitely hit the road with two wheels and take every vaso de jugo de mango offered! The hospitality here is amazing, as you point out. One of the misconceptions I find many folks who have never been to Cuba hold is that the people are oppressed and dour, trudging along under the yoke of ‘the man,’ with crazy policies a la sanctioned hair cuts in N Korea. Then they get here and everyone is cracking jokes, dancing, drinking and generally enjoying life a pesar de….
Life lessons indeed!
Hey – I think I have found a blog I will love!! I am just another baby boomer Canuck who travelled several times from ’91 on to my favourite isla. 🙂 I stayed at all inclusives – mainly Varadero – where the grass is greener than the rest of Cuba 😉 so say mis amigos cubanos – and el cheap – renting a moped, or a jeep to get out and around Cardenas, matanzas, Jovellanos, Cienfuegos and some crocodillo swamp! And of course Havana. Once I hopped a La Habana bound tour bus in from of my hotel and gave him a few bucks to drop me down the road at a friends. No political statemtns from me but my gosh you have to admire these people in spite of their government.
I once heard when things ‘change’:( (I seriously hope not too much just a better quality life for them) you will hear a giant sucking aound across the Caribbean as others discover Cuba and see what a beautiful country, gorgeous beaches and amazing people are really like! But please God – no McD’s, Denny’s or Starbucks on the Malecon
I love the island and miss it. I best remember the smells, sounds and music as I drove the roads or walked their neighbourhoods, visiting friends for lunch, dinner or coffee. (OMG one sip of cuban coffee for this tea granny and I could swim home to Canada!)
I will be back.
Hey Deb!! thanks for dropping by. Im so glad I was able to conjure this wonderful place for you. Have a poke around some of the old posts for more of those “smells, sounds and music” and some of the more recent posts for what changes are afoot….cheers!
What a great read..I’ve traveled several times Cuba especially the past 3 years and I have been fortunate to meet several families in the small town of Boca de Jaruco as well as Havanna. There is a song by Chantal Kreviazuk titled ” Feels Like Home” for some reason It makes me feel connected with the many friends I have made in cuba.I have no way of contacting my friends between visits.I now have another way to feel connected to this country that has become so special to me.. Thanks for sharing.
Welcome Cheby! Thanks so much for your comment. I feel like Im making a difference!
Did anyone else cover that song? Sounds familiar but the artist doesn’t ring a bell. Im thinking Duncan Sheik, maybe?
She is a Canadian songwriter I google’d and didn’t see where Duncan Sheik covered her songs…the chorus goes like this..
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I’m all the way the back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I’m all the way back where I belong
It feels like I’m all the way back where I belong
..any way.. yes you are making a difference..and as per your words not by swaying anyone..I for one appreciate that….I have gone full circle on my thoughts on why something is the way it is in Cuba many times..you make a difference by adding some color around real situations that either reinforce a feeling I may have or make me question it. In the end Cuba is a living breathing result of its history. and it is up to me to come to my decisions. One thing for sure Cuban people are proud people, as well they should be.
Thanks again for sharing.
.PS I have never responded to a blog before (I guess that’s proof you made a difference.. ha ha).
Hey, thanks Cheb. You know, you’re not the first one at HIH to say “I’ve never responded to a blog before,” so I am touching some nerves, I guess. In a good way. mostly, which is, as we say here, barbaro! (I don’t know why I can’t do accents in wordpress). but really, this the whole point of Here is Havana: to celebrate all that is unique and wacky, inspiring and thought-provoking about Cuba. If these elements are sometimes in contradiction, confusing and well, just damn frustrating, such is life everywhere, anywhere. The point is to embrace the good and help spread the word.
A big shout out to reader Lee M. from BC for taking the time to put her thoughts about Here is Havana down on a nice (squirrels! I miss squirrels!) card and send it to my PO box here. Nothing like something in the old mailbox to brighten my day! Cheers Lee!
OK, Conner — I’ve got your app, been reading your blog, and am ready to bolt NYC for three days in Havana later this month. One thing you said on your app intrigued me, so I’ll ask: what IS the best Cuban cigar (Montecristo?)? And what is the best rum?
Thanks for all the great stuff!
Hola Steve-O. Asking what’s the best cigar is like asking who’s the best 007 or who’s sexier Page or Plant? Everyone has their preference (for the record: Connery, Page). Personally, I prefer Romeo y Julieta Churchills over all others (not that I can afford them mind you), followed closely by Montecristo 2. Cohiba is the most famous, but I find them a little ‘picante’ although a certain someone once gifted me a box of Esplendidos and well! Divine all of them. Go check out the huge selection at 5ta y 16, grab a rum on the rocks and sit back and smoke in the lounge/bar.
Re rum I can only tell you what the word on the street is, since I don’t drink. Again, like Cohibas, the flagship brand is Havana Club. I assume you’re asking to drink straight not in cocktails (the best is not mixed, obviously) and if you stick w Havana Club 7 years or older, you’re good. However, tipplers have been complaining about the overall quality of HC lately (mind you these are Cubans who have been drinking the stuff for years and have it in their veins – Im sure everyone else would find it excellent) and are leaning towards Santiago rum. How about doing a taste test and reporting back?
And please comment/rate/review the iapp. Feedback is very helpful/appreciated. have a great trip!
I have a blog on craft beer, whiskey and travel. My wife and I are visiting Havana in one week and I am curious if you know anything about Taberna de la Muralla? I’ve read the brew pub offers the closest thing to craft beer in the country but I am curious to get an opinion from someone on the ground there. I realize you don’t drink but perhaps you can give me the word on the street or you know someone I could contact about the pub.
I know it well – you can read an in-depth description and see photos on my iapp Havana Good Time
They have beer crafted on site, but for someone of your knowledge and palate, I wouldn’t call it “craft beer.” Still, it’s a completely novel place for Havana and a fun day/night out. Great people watching in one of Old Havana’s most atmospheric plazas. Have a great trip.
I generally can’t stand blogs but this is lovely. I look forward to reading more when I get the chance. It is so exciting to find good writing about Cuba which is non-lame. I just wanted to say well done. It would be lovely to meet you some time when next in town. Sadly I’ve just returned.
Hey, thanks Lydia! Ive always secretly considered myself “non-lame!” Come back often, participate in the dialogue, subscribe to here is havana so you won’t miss a post and keep on reading. Happy 2012
I am not reading too many blogs, but found yours quite special and decided to subscribe. I have visited Cuba twice for long trips across the island and got my good and bad memories – thanks to your blogging I can refresh both.
all the best
Thanks so much Mandy! I really appreciate this – especially since it has been one of “those” days and Im feelin’ pretty damn low. For you and other subscribers: I only post 2x a month, so don’t expect to be bombarded. Cheers!
today I had a recollection of my third and last stay in Cuba back in 2005, I remember my mixed feelings about it, its perfect nature, ocean, beaches, sunshine but on the other side poor people, not much eating possibilities (unless you are close to the ocean – then you can have a lobster and ships all day long), Havana’s poverty and misery. I am from post-communict country and witnessed the collapse of this system – visiting one of the last such places on Earth I hoped it will not last too long and have to say, I am surprised it still lasts. On the other hand can not imagine the alternative, as I think the probable transformation will cause a lot of pain and trouble to Cubans…
Keep on writing, btw have you read Waiting for snow in Havana by Carlos Eire?
greetings from cold Poland
Hi PC. Mixed feelings are very common where Cuba is concerned – I often have them myself, which you know if you’ve poked around the blog some. Things have changed a lot since 2005 (also evident in many of my posts) – there are A LOT of places to eat now. It is the single most popular private business endeavor since the relaxation of regulations regarding private enterprise.
I don’t think the Cuban system is likely to collapse any time soon, but there are some troubling signs (in Havana, let me stress, which is not Cuba IMO) like erosion of values, greater income inequality and the like. Many people are surprised that the Revolution has lasted as long as it has, but usually those folks don’t know Cubans – this is a tough, dedicated bunch. On a side note: all transformation (political, personal, financial) is painful, no? But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it in the end.
Thanks for writing in!
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Hey…I found your app and downloaded it. I then found this blog and think it’s wonderful. Am heading back to Cuba next month and can’t wait to get into Havana and see things beyond the good but limited tours!
Cool. Thanks Rob.
And hey! Anyone who wants to lend a virtual hand, please consider reviewing Havana Good Time on iTunes (competition by those w more resources/fewer scruples is heating up!)
I am so happy to have discovered your blog! My husband is Cuban and we spent the past few years living in Havana while finishing our university degrees there. We are now back in Canada but I wish that I had had the chance to meet you while we were there. I can really relate to so many of your comments. Countless comments you made actually made me roar laughing. I spent half the time loving life and all the amazing things that Cuba has to offer and the other half of the time complaining about how much I hated it. It’s such a magical, beautiful, and frustrating country! It’s funny, now that we are back in Canada, I’ve forgotten the things that annoyed me (understatement) and just remember how great it was to be surrounded by family and friends in the hot weather with no worries other than how the heck we were going to find a maquina to get home from wherever we were. I miss the malecon and the unlimited options to underground music, the fruit, and being a chismosa to whatever relationship argument was going on in the public eye. Enjoy your time there and please keep writing so that I can live it vicariously through you.
We will be back to visit soon so maybe we could even meet up for a cafe.
Roaring with laughter? love it! Glad you found Here is Havana and that it helps keep you connected to this crazy, complex island. Other ways you can stay in touch are via my Facebook Page, by subscribing to the blog or picking up my iapp Havana Good Time (where I focus heavily on music and culture).
Interesting your “rose colored” glasses looking back: I think that happens to all of us, whether it’s an adventure, an ex, or an adventure with an ex. Maybe I’ll explore this nostalgia theme (which MANY Cubans in the Diaspora “suffer” from) in a future post.
Trying to enjoy, thanks!
Peter March 11th.
Have just learned of your blog from a friend in Boston. Living in this crazy place stretches ones imagination and builds a will to win that would have gone long ago if I’d remained retired up in the Niagara Peninsular.
Here I am in Havana foraging for potatoes and riding my bike in mid-winter.
Question; Where can I find the bicycle polo guys? I’d like to write a story
Well, you’ll be looking awhile since the “guys” are actually gals (the woman who brought bike polo to cuba is a canadian who lives here and her daughter-in-law schooled the Cubans on the cancha: none of them wanted the girl on their team until she scored all five goals!) with some cuban machos for flavor!!
What kind of article are you looking to write? You know that’s my turf right?! 😉 I actually just pitched this story and am waiting to hear back….
Why should I know that? Keep your secrets I will find them.
Peter – of course you’ll find them. There are no secrets in Havana!! But please bring bikes: yesterday’s match had to be cancelled for lack of…but be aware: there are sometimes injuries to both bike and player.
I happened upon your blog after returning teary-eyed to Canada from Cuba and craving as much information and reminders of the culture as I can get. Thank you so much, I can’t stop reading!!! You have a new fan!
Thanks for stopping in Robin. Glad to share the Cuba love!
Dear Miss Conner: After I posted some coments about the pretence construction of golf courses in Cuba, I read more from your site. I must confess that I like it, you are a good writer and it seems to me that you have in some way captured the Cuban ‘charms’ perhas I must congratulate your husband because is evident that you are loving not just him but also his country. After I read you more here and there, I am a little afraid that for some odd reason far from the truth you could put me under the category of those rabid extremists. I know that is what the Cuban communist goverment has said about me in its newspapers and local TV channels. Nevertheless, I trust you will give me a fair chance with your kindred spiritid and your unbiass mind because I will love keep a dialogo with you, and what is even the most important motive and my core intentions I will love to have your impartial eyes on the latest news and developments about those golf courses. You see Miss Conner we have something in common. We both love Cuba, and we both are concern about its future. I shared many kisses in the malecon, but the most memorable of all was the one I gave to my wife there 24 years ago. I have cried many, many, many times with the Zafiros’ song Habana, and everytime that I see a Cuban movies with images of the Malecon or Havana. I cried because been born there I had stoically endure my exile for the last 12 years. The doors of my birth country are still closed to me but I am craving the kiss of the palms trees, and the faces of my dear ones. I was born there 47 years ago. My mother is there, my uncles, my cousins, my best friend in the whole world. I am also a proud American citizen, and I love America deeply because it has give me a second chance in life…but as you are about to know I am all about love. Keep writing you do it so well.. and let me know if you are still interested in reading the legal demand of the Cuban Enviromental group NATURPAZ against the construction of the International Airport in Cayo Coco.
Best regards Leonel Morejon Almagro
Ah Leonel – I feel your pain in being so far from your loved ones. We share that in common.
However, you were disingeneous in your comment on the golf courses leading readers to believe that you and NATURPAZ were here on the island. I don’t take kindly to that, especially from someone throwing around terms like “fair chance,” “unbiased mind,” and
“impartial eyes” – your omission in the aforementioned post belies all that. As Marti said: “la mejor manera de decir es hacer.”
Hi Conner- I am grateful for you quick answer to my post. Naturpaz IS THERE, inside Cuba… and I wish I could be there too. Sorry for the misspelling of “unbised mind” and perhaps one or another word..I wrote you from my guts, and did not went back to correct what I wrote a bad habit inheredit from my passion on certain issues. Moreover, English is my second language, but this time just for the sake of a better understanding I reached my synonym finder book (J.I Rodale author) because I perceived a little hostility in your answer when after the openning “Ah” of the first lines you begins the second paragrah accusing me of being “disingeneous” a word that my friend Rodale put in the vecinity of and cited: “insincere, uncandid,unfrank,mealymouthed;deceitful,dishonest,underhanded,crooked,tricky,double-tongued;false,false-hearted;double dealing,two-faced;mendacious,lying,untruthful,artful,insidious,guileful,scheming,plotting,calculating,contriving,designing,cunning,crafty,sly,wily,foxy,shifty,slippery,smooth,slick. ” Ah-Conner I wrote it all because you being a journalist and all surely love words.
I was sincere, and I was ingeneous in my post I was not trying to misslead anyone. I was in Cuba when I wrote the demand againts the goverment’s authorities. I went to jail for doing that, my family was awfully threaded, and more. You are a beautiful leady and this a piropo, be nice now. Naturpaz members are right now inside Cuba of course, and they are still working under a lot of pressure, and they are still considered counter-revolutionaries elements, or CIA agents, as I was deceitfully accused by the Union de Jovenes Comunistas y el Partido back in 1986 when I was a comunist myself when the Party told me that only Fidel was authorized to talk about peace or ecology. I was kicked out of Cuba in October 1999. Now, if you want to speak with any member of Naturpaz inside Cuba, please let me know to contact them rightaway, and please give me your whereabouts to send them to you. I told you that the main reason of my dialogue with you Miss Conner beside of the enjoyment of your writtings is to follow up on the golf courses’ news specially on those planned on or near the Guanahacavives biosfere reserve, and Cayo Coco, because Im thinking in reopenning the legal case that I introduced before the Cuban Supreme Court back in 1999. Have a wonderful day and kiss La Habana for me please. Leonel
Sigh. You have me all wrong Lionel – not uncommon with all this Internet business.
No, I don’t want to talk to anyone at Naturpaz. No. I won’t kiss La lindissima, fidelissima Habana for you (I have enough of my own kissing to do). I hate it when people tell me what to do, especially when it’s to “be nice” (don’t all NYers hate that? I think it’s genetic). I don’t entirely believe everything you say but have no time or inclination to parse – I have to make a living.
Of course you do by Leonel.
Just RTd your wonderful Irish Times article on the Cuban health system, published a few days ago (I’m on holidays and struggling with a dodgy internet hook-up).
I have called it the best article ever published on the subject!
Find the link to it here http://www.twitter.com/cubasupport.
Keep up the good work.
Gracias!! Twitter has been a little wonky lately, but I’ll give it a try.
The article is getting some traction. Im anxious to see it in print – old fashioned gal I am, the screen just doesn’t cut it for me!
Hi There, buenos Noches.
I am very grateful to have found
you yesterday on L.P. Thorntree
while reading info on Cuba!! I did
a lot of reading on your HiH Sunday,
and then tonight, i found this blog:-)
and have enjoyed all of It.
I can tell there is much more to read
And learn. I can’t wait! And I’m a newby
To blogging… Is that a word?
I wanted to tell You I am happy, thank you!
I want to bring you rock and roll music,
And magazines:-) lol.
I shall read more and write again…
But I just felt compelled to write you. I got
Taken up by the whole subject! I so love
Cuba, and it is very difficult to articulate, and
Express my feelings and experience. I have
Only been twice for short visits, and always
Dream of the next time.
I’m also challenged by my minimal computer/ typing skills. Thank you again! Mary~*~
I’m coming for a short time late OCT.
Welcome Mary. Glad you found me. And yes, blogging is very much a word. Cheers.
Hey Conner, how you doin you little communist chica. Would love to see you write an article on state of Internet in Cuba. Whats the deal with the Alba 1 submarine cable to Venezuela, last I heard it’s functioning but isolated from the web. What about dial-up / highspeed, how much is it, who can have it.. If I drive around Havana war dialing will I find any Wifi hotspots, if so are they use WEP or WPA2 encryption. Also curious about cell phone internet and sms for tourists, is it restricted in any way? Cuba is high on my list of places to move to from Canada in the next few years. BUT only when a solid reliable internet connection is available. Will also consider smuggling/paying off customs to bring in a modem and Direcway sat dish if I have to. Oh and what about real-estate. I heard there condos near Playa del este and in Veradero sold to Canadians? Thats it for now.. Keep up the great work!
An article about the Internet would be very short indeed: too slow, too limited, too many fire walls.
Cable is a great mystery. Word on the street (never to be trusted) is that’s it’s connected but??? There are some “high(er) speed” connections which cost a fortune so I don’t really know much about them. Wifi hot spots?! Hahahaha!!!!
We’re on 46.6k dial up; as we say down here: algo es algo and although I complain episodically about this, I am very grateful to have at least this. Given your criteria for moving here I think you should look elsewhere for a relocation plan.
Also, about smuggling in that stuff: you HAVE heard of Alan Gross haven’t you?? Nothing to joke about.
Real estate for sale to foreigners? Nope, not yet except for those who are learning how to get around the law.
PS Not a communist just to clarify, but I do like to share!
Conner, if your up on this, could you give your take on this whole Toronto Blue Jays / Escobar, homophobic slur on the eye-black thing?
Yup, Im up on it. What to say? Cuba is full of homophobes. Ive met my share. I also work very closely with the Cuban LGBT community, publish about queer issues here, participate monthly in the Cine Club Diferente debates (tonight, by the way!) and am continually surprised about how such an educated, cultured population can be so ignorant.
Im doing my piece to help educate against this ignorance, pero no es facil. By the way, its not just Cubans!
Just came across your blog as part of having just moved to Merida, Mexico. I had never been to the Yucatan until September 8 and I’ve never been to Havana but something may be going on here that the Tao hasn’t told me.about. You see I’ve written this novel (still unpublished but hope springs eternal) “Songs of Icarus” that ends with the hero being rescued from the Straits by Santiago – Hemingway’s boat captain. It feels as though I’m being drawn here as part of a life imitates art plot. Don’t know whether I’m a hero or a victim. But kudos anyway on giving so much of yourself and the city to those of us who need it.
Hola Guillermo! Yes indeed – there’s something in the air. Ive spent many a wonderful time in Merida and am plotting to return sometime soon. Many great people and things to do in the White City. There are direct flights Merida-Havana which are a dream: under 2 hours to reach la isla mas bonita!
Good luck publishing Songs of Icarus – I feel you on hope springing eternal in that realm.
Yo Conner! Whether it’s you here or me there let’s be sure to meet. Check out the blog InOtherWordsMerida. One of my stories will appear there in November. Cher who I haven’t met is the editor. There’s an Open Mic at Hennessy’s Irish Pub on Tuesday and we plan to meet up there. Kudos on being included in the Women’s Travel Writing anthology. The Elvis piece is now on my must-read list. Nice hat by the way. The Irish know how to pick hats.
Im not much of a hat girl, truth be told. Thanks for all the info/kudos. I have 2 stories in The Best Travel Writing 2012 – due out next week. On e is about my time covering Cuban docs in post-quake Haiti, the other about falling in one of Havana’s many holes….Cheers!
So just got back from Havana about a week ago. I’ve always had this huge obsession with the country, history, especially the revolution.. not to mention the music is my favorite! Anyways, I fell in love with the country and the people. I am working as a Reservations Manager in a boutique hotel in Mexico though I am from San Francisco, CA. I am 22 years old and want to move to Cuba. I am dead serious. My friends and family think its a bit odd because why would I want to live a country with a dictator like the Castro’s? Good question. I am just that type of adventurous child and want to try something new. Do you know any place where I can possibly work in Havana? Tourism industry? Can you direct me towards some people you may know? Please let me know how to go about this?
I will be done working here in Mexico in May or June and would like to come out this summer to start living. Money is really not option, I just want the experience.
Please let me know 🙂 I would greatly appreciate it.
I hate to be the one to burst your bubble but what you propose is not practical on many different levels. Bureaucratically, you wouldn’t be able to procure residency to work here; Cubans themselves are desperate to get into tourism jobs; and the economy here is en el piso.
Since you say money is no option (I assume you mean object?), your best bet is to come here for the maximum allowed US folks – 2 months. This is long enough to cure many people (yes, even wild children!) of their love of the place. If you still feel the pull after 2 months, you’ll have to leave the country and re-enter to receive another 2 month visa.
PS – If you want to start on your road to being here for longer periods of time, the first step is to not call the govt a dictatorship…
Dear Gringa next door,
Great reading! I enjoy the perspective of your writtings about life in Havana.
Thank you for sharing them with all of us.
I am a bolivian working for a norwegian company bringing students to spend their 3 month university “semester” to Havana. I have shared your blogg address with our students.
I wanted to share http://www.elponcho.org with you. It is the place I designed and built in Bolivia and it has been rated as the 2nd strongest vortex of energy in the Americas. The 1st one which is inhabited. I see that a center like this one in Cuba, would bring inspiration to both cubans and visitors on how to deal with environmental deterioration. I see Cuba as fertile ground for it since there are 2 important social aspects i see are well developed in Cuba: Solidarity and community.
The reason why i am contacting you is that the next International Permaculture Conference will take place in Havana around Nov. 2013. Permaculture was specially supported by the government during the special period and it would probably be great for people to know more about this environmental designing tool for selfsustainability. Food security for the people in a time of blokade, a re evolution of the revolution, so cubans will understand what they have really achieved…
I will be working in Havana again from January 25th, 2013.
There is more to this message than I can say, but I would really like to meet you to show you other projects you may find very interesting. Take a look at: http://www.pachamamaboat.com
I want to build a boat like this again with a crew of many nations to sail for the lifting of the blokade…
Thank you for your time.
Hola Enrique! thanks for writing in with some fascinating links. I was in Cochabamaba many moons ago updating the Lonely Planet – Id wish Id known about your project; looks super interesting.
There is definitely an energy vortex in Cuba – but not all good, as many friends have pointed out over the years. Have you been here before? I hope you’re pleasantly surprised. For permaculture, the go-to place is the Fundacion de la Naturaleza y el Hombre Nunez Jimenez, but you probably already know that.
Three months is a good amount of time to get a feel for this wild and wooly place, I hope you and your students have an amazing, eye-opening stay. If you haven’t already, you might check out my Havana Good Time app (Im assuming the semester is spent in Havana?) for Android or iOS: http://sutromedia.com/apps/Havana_Good_Time
A couple of places off the top of my head that will likely interest you/the students is the Casa del ALBA and the Casa de las Americas. Have a great trip!
Yes the semester is spent in Havana. I have trouble getting into the app for android. I get directly into itunes with the link you sent. 🙂
Hmmm, maybe try this one specifically for Android: http://sutromedia.com/android/Havana_Good_Time
Also, I announce handpicked happenings on my Havana Good Time Facebook page – this helps people plan nighttime and cultural activities and stay plugged in while they’re here.
Thank you for your reply amiga,
I have already lived in Havana and i am a temporary resident because of my work. We will be bringing the second group of students at the beginning of February and Cuba has been in my hearth since 1992 when i went for the first time.
I have already been in touch with La fundaciòn Nuñez Jimenez and visited some of their urban gardens at Nuevo Vedado with my good friend Albert Bates, one of the founders of The Farm ecovillage in Tennesse who visited me in Havana last October.
I have been in touch with your apps also, thank you for all the links, they have prooved to be very helpful.
Keep up the good work and let me know if you would be interested in seeing a little of the great work CEM is doing with youth from different U.S. universities. Also if you would be interested in a little writing job about the work we are doing in Havana, i would be very greatful you letting me know 🙂
Thanks again and good night from Norway.
Hola Enrique. So your visit includes more than just shepharding the students through their 3-month rite of passage here? I would be interested in the work you’re doing here and am always casting about for new writing gigs. Please drop me a line and let me know what you have in mind.
OMG I am so excited to have found your blog! I am planning my first trip to Cuba later this year – hopefully in July. I’ll be visiting family and seeing the places where my family comes from. Maybe it sounds strange (or maybe not) but I’ve longed to see Havana practically my whole life. I feel as if being there will help me to connect to a part of myself that I’ve been missing. Finding a blog like yours that has such an honest and open perspective is a dream come true. I feel like I’ll be better prepared when I arrive. Thank you so much!
With Joy and Laughter !
Thanks so much for your encouragement: Im glad you found me too. It doesn’t sound strange at all, your lifelong dream: Cuba is in your blood! And Havana is the king (and queen!) of cities. I predict you’re going to absolutely love it.
As for planning and making the most of your trip: have you checked out my Havana Good Time app (I see you’ve already Liked on FB; thanks!)? People seem to love it and regularly tell me it enhances their trip immeasurably. Young Cuban Americans can benefit especially from the app, I think, since it plugs them into the city instantly and gives them options about where to go to disconnect if/when the visitas and familia get to be too much.
Have a fantastic trip
Love your site. My family and I spent two weeks in Cuba over the Christmas 2011 Holidays and I have to say that Cuba was everything I imagined it would be. Sure we were based out of Veradero but I snuck away to Habana for what was sadly only 4 days with my son to explore and photograph the city.
The people were warm, friendly and of course engaging. Some of my best street photography of people was shot there. Pretty much everyone I took photos of was wiling to work with me to create a lasting image. Of course since being back home I still entertain this crazy fantasy of some day doing the Hemingway and live in Cuba so your blog does offer some viceral connection to a place I am very fond of. If you want to see the photos of Cuba just go to my Facebook page and you’ll see a colletion of 40 or so there.
Take care Conner and keep posting.
Hi Dwight. Sounds like you caught the bug! If you provide a link to your Facebook page, it will be easier for other readers to check out your photos too.
Ive had a lot of pressing deadlines recently (plus started dance classes, am finishing the interviews for the upcoming Cuban Harley Davidson book, and am improving my bike polo game week by week) so the blog has sadly, been neglected. But I WILL keep writing (thanks for the encouragement) and will post new content soon.
Hi Conner. Hopefully this link will work if kicked in externally to Facebook. If that fails just look for me (Dwight Magee) on Facebook.
Yup, that works, but I could only see about 1/3 of the photos before my connection said: enough! Thanks for posting
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Having just secured a job starting in August, I have recently discovered this blog and absolutely love it. Very informative and entertaining.
What really has just made my day is the fact that there are going to be so many women waiting for me as I step off the plane!!
I am in my early 60’s and prefer the company of mature women and from what you say in the piece above, they are being totally neglected. Maybe I will need to pack a years supply of Viagra! Not that I need it under normal circumstances of course………
Thanks Mike and congrats on the new “pincha”. We have generic viagra here by the way, administered in particularly Cuban doses. As the joke goes: How does a Cuban take viagra? Licks it, looks down to see if it’s working. Licks it again, looks again, repeat until desired effect is achieved when he saves the tablet for later.
May I also suggest you pack my Havana Good Time app for iOS/Android?
I’m so pleased I stumbled upon this!! Like many of your readers / repliers, I’m really not much for blogs, but yours is very engaging and not-annoying. I’ll be sure to check out the app as well. I’m going to be in Havana for a few days with my parents, husband, and kids (ages 8 and 6) at the end of April, flying from Toronto. I was in Havana for a few days in 1998, (teaching in Medellin, Colombia, en route home to Canada for Christmas break,) so my feeling is that things may have changed slightly… (hard to get irony across in typing. There should be a special font.) So is there anything I can bring you that you’re longing for from the States? I’m also keen to get some info on how to most effectively give stuff away — assuming we stick with our current vague plan of bringing a suitcase of drugstore-type-supplies with us to disperse. Seems potentially awkward, but hopefully helpful. Any quick thoughts (or links) on this topic you could share?
Hi there. I think being called “not annoying” might be my favorite all-time accolade leveled at Here is Havana. So thanks for that!
I get a lot of requests like yours about how/what to donate and I always welcome the chance to share knowledge on this. One criteria to remember when donating is who is the most vulnerable? ie: Who will most benefit from these donations? Casa particular owners, for instance, do not rank high on the need meter. But casas de abuelos, family doctors’ offices, churches (who always have older congregations), schools, families living in solares, generally do. Ive written a bit about the donation question in the past, including this short piece which contains a list of donations generally in need here:
Have a wonderful trip!
Thanks — your list of items is helpful and specific.
I wrote to the Canadian embassy in Havana, figuring I might be able to simply land on their doorstep with STUFF and that they would know who and where the best recipients would be. As you can imagine, it’s all very well to arrive with things to give away, but then what?
Anyway, this is what the embassy had to say to me:
“Please note that donations of any type, whether by individuals, organizations, or businesses, must be coordinated, before travelling, through one of the missions of Cuba in Canada to avoid difficulties with Cuban Customs. As this is a matter under the jurisdiction of Cuban authorities, we strongly recommend that you direct your request to one of the Cuban missions in Canada at: …. _______” etc etc, many addresses given.
Do you reckon I’ll have difficulties with Cuban Customs if I arrive with items to donate? Argh. And do you have a straightforward suggestion… you know, on a par with your helpful & specfic info re WHAT to bring, as to WHERE to bring it?
Sorry — I’m sure your life is busy enough without random tourists requesting donation-hand-holding. Just tryin’ to do the right thing here…
I have some places I arrange donations to. It depends exactly what you’ll be bringing, when, etc. Issues with Customs are also dependent on what you’re bringing. Please contact me using the link on the righthand side of the blog to facilitate coordination. By the way – donations are always welcome from random tourists!
Just wanted to drop a line to say THANK YOU for your blog, which is like an unfogged window into the soul of Cuba. I am a fellow caribbean compañero from Puerto Rico and for years I’ve been meaning to find out more about Cuba, unfortunately, every time the conversation came up, political issues would tarnish the true intention of my curiosity. It’s so refreshing to have a place like this blog that shows the most beautiful asset Cuba possesses, its people!
Hola! What an absolutely lovely way to end a very long (string) of long days – with a writerly piropo! Unfogged and refreshing: I’ll take it. Very glad you found me and enjoy the blog; and thanks for subscribing.
I read in the Huff Post that you recently opened up a cafe/book store. You are hoping to teach English classes eventually. I am a first generation American Cuban. I would love to help volunteer one summer.
Hi there. thanks for writing in and offering your support. The English class portion of the adventure is something the Cuban side of Cuba Libro is really anxious to get going and volunteer possibilities are something we’ve also talked about. Unfortunately, both of these ideas involve a lot of moving parts and it will be some time before all the ducks are in a row (so to speak) to make these happen. While we gather steam, ideas, energy and organization, I suggest you drop a line to our email: firstname.lastname@example.org about your interest and when things start moving in that direction we’ll be in touch. You can also follow us on Twitter @cubalibrohavana.
I just read your blog for over an hour, and I love your writing and pithy attitude. I’ve been to Havana four times, and after each monthlong visit I’ve promised myself to never return. Yet a year after each trip, I get struck with a vision of rolling onto Avenida Monte amid a maquina’s cloud of black smoke and spending another four weeks in a kind of ambulatory meditation. It always makes me buy a ticket back. Your blog is both entertaining and reassuring for me. Thank you!
Hola Ben. Glad you liked it – entertaining, reassuring AND pithy: I must be doing something right! I only wish there were more hours in the day so I could dedicate more time to Here is Havana (both the blog and the book)
Hola and shtufffs. Not much to be added here that has not already been expressed. So I will simply say, ‘Good Shtufffs’.
You fill a space with words evoking a profound sense of being a ‘quietly wise spirit’, very much like the people I have spoken to or photographed in Cuba, Sagacious wisdom is rampant in Cuba; you see it the face of an elderly woman making her way home, in the moving gesture of an old man on a bicycle, in the silhouette of a gentleman seeking shade under the Oleander, in the arch of the back of a young man standing in a field of goats brushing his teeth as he watches the sun rise over distant hills, Et. al.
I am now a follower here.
Que bien! Thanks for following, but to HH and other readers: please be patient. Im SWAMPED with real (ie paying) writing work, so the blog is going to lag a bit in coming weeks. Ive got three posts cooking but wonder if you all have preferences for topics? Send ideas/votes my way! Currently cooking:
– Fat Wallet, Anorexic Intellect (on the nouveau riche here)
– Cuban Cracker Explosion
– The Cuban Cologne Problem
The Cuban Cologne Problem – I’ve been waiting for it for a while now, “gas mask anyone?” HAHAHA That was rich!!!!
That’s 2 votes for the “scent dilemma”. Stay tuned!
Just found out about your blog today. I following along. As an expat in Mexico I’ve been to Cuba once. In February ’14 I’m off to Cuba again, this time for a photography workshop. I have a photography blog http://www.throughharoldslens.com. I’m looking forward to discovering, exploring and Following your blog. Best, Harold, my trusty sidekick Mr. SLR Nikon and his brother Mr. Pen Pal.
Your Blog is really ineresting! I don’t know if I agree with you, but I sure enjoy reading your stuff! Be Well, Yours, Josh
Every now and then I get delusions of adventure. When I do, I google unlikely places to try to imagine what it would be like to live there. This week it’s been St. Helena (the one in the South Atlantic, not the one in Napa County) and Cuba. Your article on the Cuba Absolutely website, “Do you have what it takes to live in Cuba?” led me to your blog. I feel like I’ve gotten a more honest view from your posts than from anything else I’ve read (and it’s been much more entertaining, too!). I’m following you now!
Hola Joanna. Thanks a lot! One of my primary goals with this blog is to present a slice of Cuban reality, honestly. So glad you get it!
Im so happy to have stumbled onto your site. Interesting topics and addicting to say the least. Read all the blogs the other night. I can totally identify with many of the topics you have discussed on here. Ive never been to Cuba but plan to visit this year. As a son of Cuban parents, I have so many stories I can share about growing up in a Cuban immigrant home in America during the 70’s and 80’s.. From the heavy noxious flowery perfume that my mom would rub on my bruises,headaches among other remedies(Anyone remember My Big Fat Greek Wedding-Windex?? LOL),
and curing hiccups by placing a wet balled up string and placing it on your baby’s forehead(my mother had me do this the other day to my 4 month old son) to all the “Dichos” and “Fulanos”. Wonder where the word “FULANO” comes from??? hahaha
Thanks for sharing your stories with all of us and keeping it funny,honest fresh.
Hey Ray. Thanks for writing in. Addictive? Now THERE’S an accolade (I’ve got a pretty addictive personality so this is my kind of literary “piropo”!)
Im sure others are just as anxious to know as me: did the balled up string resolve the hiccups?!
Have a wonderful trip.
Hello Connie,so delighted to find your blog,I have been traveling to cuba for 25 years now ( I’m 35) so since an early age and after many years of saying no ….I married my lovely cuban husband of nine years ( great ones) ,I can relate to so much for you writing…would love to hear more and stay in contact.
Hi Conner ,
I stumbled onto you’re wonderful blog like many others here . My heart has resided in Cuba for many years and reading you’re blog takes me back to my first trip to Havana several years ago . It was a life changing experience and quite frankly I have never been the same , injecting a Cuba reference into almost every conversation . It’s a weird attraction that I can’t explain but it’s nice to know I’m not alone . You are a wonderful writer please keep it coming .
Mil gracias John. Cuba does have that life-changing effect. It’s very difficult to transmit this to people who have never experienced it. Im so glad you get it and no, we are not alone!! Stay tuned for new writing soon. Happy travels.
Hi Conner I love your blog and I do hope you manage to achieve your dream of having it translated into many languages and receives 1 million hits. You deserve to!
It’s nothing short of a miracle that you manage to keep it going when you consider that the internet is banned in Cuba. How do you manage it?.
I would like to see an honest piece feature in your blog on women and men who flock to cuba in search of romance. Idealistic though they might me, they almost always stay at all inclusive hotels where they are targetted by unscrupuous resort staff, most animacion staff on a mission to get a visa to what they believe is a better life. But their dreams are shattered once they arrive to the colder climate and the realization dawns that they actually have to work their butt of in order to survive when ‘work’ as we know it has always been an alien concept to them in Cuba where they live a privileged cossetted life protected from the harsh realities of life as we know it, bills mortgages, surviving the rat race that is life in the west.
So the women who have been lured in by these phoney casanovas soon wake up to the reality of life with them, many turn out to be abusive, lazy and usally do a Houdini vanishing act as soon as their papers drop on the mat, leaving their partner shattered, bankrupt and emotionally broken.
As I said the web is just awash with so many of those sad stories by disillusioned ladies from mostly Canada.
I am not speaking from personal experience. I have never stayed at an all inclusive. The thought of those palaces of gluttony and binge drinking sends shivers down my spine.
I am talking about the many blogs on forums featured on the internet, nearly always disaster stories. The ‘Does He Love Me’ ‘How Do I know He’s For Real’ type of story, all so sad so negative so predictable
I feel that a feature on how to survive the minefield that is the Jinitero /a on a mission to snare a naive gullible yuma would make for fascinating reading and might serve to educate those women and men planning a visit for the first time.
You have survived a 13 year marriage. What is the secret? compromise no doubt, when you consider just how machista the men are. Does he work? And do you have to support him? you mentioned that you are ‘swamped with work’ and that is wonderful, but does your marriage give you the opportunity for free time time for you, or are you so bogged down with meeting bills and responsibilities and supporting the hombre that you are exhausted.
I would encourage any visitor to Cuba to get out there on the off the beaten track. Travel by local buses, camiones, collectivos, hitch. Stay with Cuban families, avoid the dreadful all incluives which are as much about Cuba as Canun or Las Vegas.
Keep up the good work Connor but it would be nice to read about the real Cuba. El Verdad!.
THanks for writing in. A couple of clarifications:
– the internet is not banned here; prohibitively expensive in the pay-for-use outlets (there are many ways Cubans get free internet), but not banned. And those are 2 different things.
– work is not an ‘alien concept’ for Cubans. To wit: preparing yucca/malanga; tirando una placa (raising a roof); sugar harvest. Work ethic? That’s something else.
– harsh realities come in different guises, not only paying bills and while Cubans do experience a steep learning curve when they move north, they come well equipped knowing many harsh realities (hunger?!). Its not a coincidence that Cubans are the top earning Latino immigrant group in the USA/Canada
I have already written extensively on Cuban-foreigner romance, how to avoid/deter jineteros and the “real Cuba” and there are some really more pressing issues floating about lately.
Hey Connor, thank you for the reply.
I am well aware that the internet is not ‘banned in Cuba’
What I meant to ask is when will Wifi and the internet access in general be made available to all Cubans, not just the privileged few? i.e. foreigners using the ETECSA centres and those who are in privileged positions, i.e. the government, universities etc.
With regard to work being an ‘alien concept’ to Cubans who con a yuma into a sham marriage to secure a visa out I would say that yes, work is indeed an ‘alien concept.
I live in Canada and I have seen sooo many women been taken to the cleaners by Cuban bankrupted by Cuban Jiniteras who have been raised in the Cuban system of being cosseted fed housed catered to by their adoring Cuban mommas. Who feel that they can sit on their lazy butts overseas and wait the yuma to provide.
Santiago di Cuba tends to have a high ratio of hustlers who happen to be adverse to doing an honest day’s work after the yuma has spent a small fortune on flying him out.
Anyone who has travelled to Cuban will testify, racial discrimination exists in Cuba. I have witnessed it in the hotels, seen it on the streets of Havana. Why is that that 90% of the Jiniteras who pursue yumas on the streets of Havana and other cities in Cuba are Afro Cuban?
How many Afro Cubans are there in the Cuban Government? How many scientists, doctors, mathematicians, directors of hotels?
Very few if none.
How many cleaners, maids, bar men waiters are Afro Cuban? says it all.
You say you have written extensively on the subject of Jinitero/Yuma sham marriages Where?
You have evaded the sensitive issue of your own marriage. why? with the excue that there are more ‘pressing issues.
I asked you what has kept you together for 13 years . Immense compromise? or the fact that a Yuma happens to be supporting him while he lives the life of a single man?
Is this the only way to remain married in Cuba?
If so it sure as hell is not for me. !.
You are making many assumptions in your comment and errors too (to wit: How many Afro Cubans are there in the Cuban Government? How many scientists, doctors, mathematicians, directors of hotels? Very few if none.). A bit of research will reveal the very high % of afro cubans in govt, scientific and medical research, clinical medicine etc etc. And the concrete steps (and recognition of racial discrimination) by govt to right historic wrongs.
I did not answer the question about my marriage bc Im currently finishing my memoir of 13 years in Cuba and I dont want to give away the ending. My publisher would be pissed! But suffice to say: you got it all wrong. And Im swamped bc a) Im publishing more than ever, b) Im managing a business, c) Im doing press, d) Im fixing for other press and e) Im hitting all the hot concerts, art openings, dinner parties I can. So no, has nothing to do with my husband.
the whole issue of the “real cuba” (and I get a kick when people say this) is that its ALL the real cuba. Its a fascinating prismatic reality that is dynamic, evolving, complicated, and cant be reduced to easily compartmentalized stereotypes (ie all Cuban-foreign marriages are a Cuban man exploiting a yuma).
One more point: I dont know if you’re married, but compromise (from inconsequential to immense) is involved in ALL matrimony.
Just found you and, well, OMG Yay!
I’ve never been, but my other half loves it there and is convinced we should move and that it wouldn’t be “that hard”… (he’s been there for work)
I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’m from a different island and I miss it, he’s from the US – Hispanic but never learned the language (he’s starting to now) – and we’d need schools… Anyway, I hope to come soon (for work too) and I’m glad that I found you so I at least have a better idea of what to expect. 🙂
Hi there. Glad you found me. Your other half is right: it wouldn’t be that hard – it would be HARDER. You don’t speak Cuban (let alone Spanish), you need the proper immigration status (w both Cuba and US in case of your other half), you need schools (?), you need to make a living somehow, housing, etc.
It’s not impossible, but difficult, yes. Very difficult. Good luck.
That’s more or less what I’m telling him – that I’m 100% sure it would be harder than he thinks! I’m Hispanic and lived in Latin America through college – moved to the US for grad school – so at least I’m ok with the language, but he’s just starting to learn Spanish (mostly because he loves Cuba so much). I have no idea how we’d really make a living or if I even want to attempt to raise a family there… There’s a chance we’ll both be in Havana in March for work, but he has a long way to go if he wants to convince me… At any rate, I’m enjoying reading your blog 🙂
Hola Conner! I just discovered your blog yesterday and I’m glad I did! I love reading about your life there in Cuba. It’s such a comfort to me! By the way, I’m a Filipino currently based in Nicaragua. 🙂
I was in Cuba for a couple of days a few months ago and met a Cuban guy and, from then on, been having a long-distance relationship with him. Yes, internet in Cuba is so hard to access and very expensive and he can only send me short emails once or four times (if I’m lucky) a week.
I will come back there 3 months from now to to do more research about the possibilities of living and working there in the near future, so I can verify the information I get online. Now I want to ask you these questions. Thanks in advance for answering them. 🙂
1. I’ve been trying to search for a Filipino community in Havana, but I couldn’t find answers online. Would you know if there’s such? The Philippine embassy in Havana closed in 2012, by the way.
2. Are there NGOs in Cuba? I’m only aware that there are UN agency offices there.
3. I only know basic Spanish. Would this be a huge hindrance to finding a job there? Apart from the fact that I’m a foreigner.
4. What are other usual jobs for foreigners in Cuba? I only know that most of them teach in schools and run businesses.
5. Let’s say I’ve decided to settle in Havana and I won’t be able to get a job in 2 months, how much money do you think I should set aside to survive?
Thanks Conner! 🙂
Hola Lisa Marie. Many of the answers to your questions can be found on the expat blog interviews Ive done previously (see links on right hand of page). There is no Filipino community in Cuba what I know of. There are NGOs (Oxfam, CARE) but few and its hard to find positions with them (especially if you dont speak Spanish). And yes, not speaking Spanish is a huge disadvantage if you want to work here. Also, if you have US residency, this also complicates matters bc you have to be legal with the US govt to be in Cuba. The most popular jobs for foreigners is being a tour leader for people-to-people groups and coordinating US university programs here, but with little on the ground experience (and high demand for these jobs) it will be tough to get employment in this sector as well.
I wish I had better news, but its still very very hard to live/work here – you should definitely plan on not landing employment in 2 months. How much money depends on many factors – rent and internet will be the most expensive costs. Food, entertainment, transport are all economical if you can live low on the food chain, so to speak.
Love your writing! I’ve just spent the last hours reading through your blog instead of finishing up my Cuba article:)
Thanks!! Let us know when/where you’re article is appearing
Hello Conner! Thanks for the reply. I need to be more realistic with my options then. 😛
Good job on your blog! 🙂
On the upside, we have some sayings here that you should keep in mind during your Cuba adventure: Si se puede! and No es facil, pero tampoco es imposible. Keep the dream alive!
Aloha Conner, Greetings from Kauai. Even across all these miles it is such a small world. I will be visiting La Habana mid March. I asked my cousin Mirissa and her fiancé Josh what to do and where to go whilst on island. The very first item on their list was to visit your book store and meet you. Tonight I started to search the web for any helpful hints and there you were right at the top. So I feel the island magic is already at work. My name is Mimsy and I will definitely drop by to say hi. Your writings are fabulous and it is probably just about time for your book to get published. What a unique seat you get to be in at this auspicious moment in history.
From one island girl to another, Aloha and vaya con Dios…
Aloha Mimsi and mahalo for reading my work. Any friend of Josh and Mirissa’s is a friend of mine! Did they tell you I wrote 3 editions of the Lonely Planet Big Island guide? If I lived anywhere other than Cuba, it would be on the island of hawai’i. Talk about island magic! We await you here, with a hammock and Havana’s best espresso (well almost!) cheers
Mis limitaciones en el inglés me impiden acceder plenamente al contenido de su publicación, ¿hay alguna manera de lograrlo en idioma español? Gracias por su atención.
Ojala Rolando….Hasta ahora, m i blog es solamente en ingles. La limitacion es mia, no la tuya!
I have really enjoyed reading your blog, it’s been informative and entertaining.
I am going to be in Havana starting the 22nd on a trip organized by MEDICC and it shows in the itinerary that we will actually be going to Cuba Libro on the last full day of the trip.
I am wondering though if you have any suggestions for the best places or artists to purchase from on a modest budget. Stylistically I tend towards some of the work I’ve seen online from Taller Experimental de Grafica. However I am not opposed to other styles.
Unfortunately due to the structured tour nature of the trip I won’t have a huge amount of free time during the week so I may only be able to check out a few places so any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks for reading and writing in.
Right now, as I understand it, nothing is available for purchase at the Taller Experimental as they prepare for the Biennial. I would check out Estudio 5 (Kamyl Ballaudy; Compostela #5, between Cuarteles & Chacón); Mario Gonzalez (far end of Callejon de Hamel) and we have some amazing stuff at Cuba Libro.
Have a great trip!
Thanks for your blog. I am revisiting Cuba after a 19 year absence and am of course very curious to so what has changed. My particular interest is what to bring to sell for CUC, CAD or USD that is portable. I am a foodie so am considering spices, but others say 2nd hand electronics or clothing are more profitible.
Hola Hermes. You’re going to see huge changes since 19 years ago. Depending on what the USD is doing against CAD, you may gain a couple of pennies on the dollar but if you bring USD, it is easier to change into CUC with friends at a more advantageous rate than you get at the CADECA. If you’re looking to make profit (rather than help), skip the spices and go w the electronics. Clothes *can* be profitable but are more labor intensive to move. Have a great trip
Artful and informative, bravo! I’ll be in Havana 6/13-16 then off to somewhere. Armed with a couple of apps, a map and a sense of adventure, I’ll be researching some story ideas along with developing a number if “highlights” for my travel gig. Your work has left me with a rich perspective of what’s happening on the ground. Let me know if there’s anything I can bring down. I’ll be sliding in through Nassau and not part of any group. Como se dice “please don’t stamp my passport” en Cubano…
Fantastic blog, Conner. I wish I would have found it before I traveled to Cuba recently for 6 weeks, because you provide a priceless perspective on everything there. I will definitely refer people to your blog in the future, & reference it to reinforce and/or re-analyze some of my own opinions & conclusions from Cuba.
As for now, feel free to check my first few blog posts about Cuba (True & False Stereotypes of Cuba) if you want!
My name is Joe Pinzone and I’m casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We’d love to film in Cuba and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The expats on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. They must also speak English fluently and can be buyers or renters for their homes and can be from any country around the world. If you’d like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Hi there. Sorry, I don’t know anyone that fits your criteria. Good luck
Conner, What a lovely blog. So interesting. I just returned from a people to people tour–we were originally supposed to stop at your bookshop but the program was changed. I brought some books to give to you and Hector with Havanatur said he would deliver them. 🙂 I was spellbound by Cuba–it’s the only place I’ve traveled to that I did not want to leave at the end of my visit. I will be back to explore on my own as soon as I am able. In the meantime, I will read your blog and live vicariously. Thank you! ~marycatherine
Hi Mary CAtherine. sorry you didn’t get to Cuba Libro – it’s even better in the flesh! And I understand completely about the captivating nature of Cuba: there’s nowhere else Ive traveled (except the Big Island) where I would consider putting down roots. See you next time around hopefully. Cheers
Thank you so much for your blog, so much of the media is biased when it comes to talking about Cuba! I lived in Cuba for the summer and I loved it, it was my second time there after being there for one month in January. I am a writer and I graduated in May 2015. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on how I can move to Cuba – or at least how you did it.
No, thank YOU for reading this blog. Ive been so swamped with other work, I haven’t been able to write here lately. Frankly, it has me cranky!
If you click on the interviews on the right hand menu (especially those related to expat living), you’ll see much of the info about how I moved here. Synthesis? No es fácil pero tampoco es dificil. For all the nitty gritty details, you’ll have to wait for the book – being read by agents as I type this!!
Just came back from Cuba where I joined my girlfriend that had been there for the past two months. We both plan on living in or close to Havana and coming back from my trip our choice is revealing itself to be the right one 🙂
Sadly I didn’t read about your bookshop earlier so I couldn’t come by but I’ll be sure to visit next time when I come back in February/March. I could very much use insights from a Westerner which such a long background in the island.
I have a few projects I’d like to develop there, including working to biggening the electronic music scene in Cuba through setting up a share music studio to promote and join hands with local musicians in order to allow modern talents to be reach out to the world. I had a good laugh over your responsible travel article telling not to request “guantanamera”…
Through the studio and encounters i’d make in the cuba artistic scene (I’me also a DJ looking to play there 🙂 ), I wish to open up a cultural “lugar”, resembling in ideal to Fabrica Del Arte but on a much more down to earth perspective regarding community developement and responsible business.
I’d be happy to talk more about it in the details with you if you think our correspondance would be mutually benificial.
My name’s Cassien, I’me 24, french guy living in Paris, and extremely impatient to show the West how much we have to learn from Cubans.
Mi inglés es demaciado pobre, pero observé que su español es muy bueno, así que me permito escribirle en mi idioma natal. Esto lo más seguro que usted nunca lo haya escuchado. A Fidel Castro le dieron un golpe de Estado a finales de julio del 2006, los golpistas, que son los militares capitalistas que hoy siguen en el poder bajo la protección de Raúl Castro, traicionaron a Fidel Castro porque Fidel Castro se encontraba en una dura lucha (según las misma palabras de Fidel en sus discursos públicos) por quitarle los negocios a estos militares capitalistas en lo que se llamó Recentralización de la Economía. Por supuesto, los golpistas escondieron el golpe de Estado, porque de lo contrario el mismo pueblo los arrastraría por las calles, aún mucho pueblo es fidelista y todavía no se han percatado de como los timaron. Le dejo un ensayo, es un libro que publiqué recientemente titulado Secreto Golpe de Estado, que puede encontrar con facilidad en Amazon donde demuestro de manera irrefutable que el golpe de Estado fue dado. Encontrará en el libro hasta dos testimonios del propio Fidel Castro, nada secreto, usted misma debe de haberlo visto y no se percató porque no sospechaba que semejante traición fuera posible, testimonios donde el mismo Fidel Castro nos cuenta que realmente ocurrió, que no tiene nada que ver con enfermedad intestinal alguna, y además que se sentía con fuerzas, con capacidades y que quería seguir gobernando. Un auténtico golpe de Estado. Si no desestima este mensaje y llega a adquirir el libro, que me imagino usted como ciudadana de Estados Unidos le sea posible adquirir, le agradecería que fuera tan amable de dejarme sus opinones. Muchas gracias, disculpe lo extenso. Mi nombre es Jorge Grave de Peralta. @jorgegrave2000
I love this blog so much!!!!
I had never really given Cuba a lot of thought until I had met a Cuban man in Trinidad and Tobago trying to get to USA through South America. What he claimed he was attempting to do made me curious and I found him to be very direct and aggressive in his attempt to bed me. I got curious about the entire culture, got to google and there was your beautiful blog!
I love experiencing different cultures and after reading your blog I have to visit Cuba, I know that I will not always enjoy my trip, but I also know that I will not forget it.
Thank you so much and keep writing!!!
Hola from Havana QQ: Glad you found the blog and it has inspired travel. This is the highest compliment a reader can give!
Hi Connor, I am a prof at the Tisch School of the Arts, coming down on January 3rd to do pilot research on social dance –salsa,tango, rumba. I am an ethnomusicologist and performance studies scholar. Might you have a way to connect me to one of these scenes? I know there are several scenes and several ways in, so I am looking for a bit of guidance. my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will only be there for a few days, so time is of the essence. Many thanks for considering this!
What a coincidence! I got my undergrad degree at NYU. Jan 3 is a tough time to land and dive into research: it’s a national holiday the 2 days before and everyone will be just getting back into the swing of things on Jan 3. I know some salsa schools and teachers and the Saturday events at Conjunto Folklorico are a must (Calle 4 between Calzada (7ma) & 5ta; Sat 3pm-6pm). If you drop by Cuba Libro, I can give you info on the teachers (I don’t have that info on hand at home). Have a great trip
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I’m studying up for my first trip to Cuba at the end of the month and came across your blog–and love it. Found it absolutely fascinating and very funny. I hope I’m able to stop by your bookshop.
I’m not sure you’ll be able to answer, or even see this in time, but it just occurred to me that you might be the perfect person to give me advice. I was hoping to do something positive on the trip by bringing a suitcase with medical supplies (or the like) to donate but so far I haven’t found an appropriate way to do that and I’m not sure why. Are things like surgical gloves and bandages not still in short supply in clinics? Are people reluctant to deal with someone they don’t know?
I met a Cuban physician several years ago in Central America and was hoping he would be able to point me in the right direction but he’s seemed slightly reluctant and I’m not sure why. He mentioned the weight limit and advised packing everything in a separate piece of luggage, but when I mentioned that I’d feel more comfortable going through customs if I were able to tell them whom the supplies were going to, he dropped the subject. I would just be concerned that customs would suspect that I might be trying to sell the items if I couldn’t tell them whom I was donating them to, but I’m sure that there’s a fair amount of naïveté and ignorance on my part about the whole situation.
The last thing I want to do is cause problems for anyone. Should I drop the donation idea? Are donations needed or wanted? Should I bring something else? If you have any advice or suggestions for me I’d be very grateful.
BTW I do speak Spanish, and I’ll be travelling with my husband who’s a physician.
Hi John, I had a similar query for Conner several years ago — yours landed in my inbox for some reason (it’s not like I get *every* update for this blog, but I did get this question) and it rang a bell for me. I dug around in my inbox just now and found Conner’s reply to me from a few years ago, so I’ll cut and paste that in. She also referred to “Donating with Dignity”, which I don’t now see on the website — it was separate article, and either it’s down or I’m missing it somehow. Anyway, I’ll cut & paste what I wrote and what she replied. I did indeed bring two full suitcases of donations, and just asked the folks at my hotel for how best to get them into good hands. There was a slight awkwardness and hassle to the whole thing, but customs was no issue at all, and I did feel ultimately like we had done some good (at the risk of sounding like a complete schmuck saying that).
Here’s what I asked, in my email to Conner:
As for what to bring, we’re flexible — I’ve been thinking mostly school supplies, clothes, (I can hit a thrift store and really stock up on
decent-but-affordable stuff,) and some drugstore stuff — painkillers, cough drops, mosquito repellent, a few toothbrushes and travel soaps, etc.) Also diapers, baby stuff, and sports gear.
This type of general donation should give you no problem at Customs,
nor should you have a problem finding deserving recipients. As I
mention in the post, any school, doctors office, blood bank, casa de
abuelos, polyclinic, will be able to use these donations. Every
neighborhood has these services; ask around when you arrive or just
look for the Cuban flag/bust of Marti which fronts every
I would not bring clothes. Cubans (and especially Habaneros) are very
particular about how they dress and unless you can get
cool/trendy/label stuff, you should save your time and luggage space
bringing something else.
Have a great trip!
I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here and quoting you, Conner! You were so helpful and clear, and I thought I could get a second use out of this info. I also downloaded the Havana Good Time app and it was the BEST BEST BEST. Incredibly helpful, most especially for restaurants (and sometimes just figuring out where the heck stuff is). Have fun! What a fantastic trip we had. I went a few years ago with my parents, daughters (then about 7 and 9), and husband, and we loved every minute. Really great.
You’re so kind to assist, Karen–thank you very much! Just because everything is changing so quickly though I’m wondering whether that’s still accurate advice. I definitely don’t want to offend anyone by donating stuff that isn’t actually needed or wanted.
Hi John Mark. CERTAIN things are changing quickly, but the economy here is still in the pits and of course, there’s the US embargo. So many many things are still hard to get. here’s the list of items we distribute via cuba libro:
Rechargeable batteries and chargers (especially AA and AAA)
Soccer balls, baseballs, basketballs (can be deflated for travel)
Makeup and lotions
Cold & flu medicine
Reading glasses (the cheapo ones they sell in drug stores)
Bike parts – especially 26” inner tubes and tires, brake pads and cables, pedals, seats
Emergen-C vitamin c powder packets
Hand sanitizer (eg Purell)
Vicks Vap-o-Rub (or equivalent)
Voltaren (injectable, tablets, gel or patches)
Cough medicine (kids & adults)
Thanks for your list! I wasn’t sure I was going to have enough time since we’re leaving on Sunday (Jan 29) but I took a leap of faith and bought a suitcase full of stuff this afternoon–mostly latex (and non-latex) gloves, gauze, adult culeros (that word makes me and my non-Cuban Spanish-speaking friends giggle–a lot) and baby wipes. Not much but it’s our first trip. Should we just drop them off at Cuba Libro? An answer by Saturday afternoon would be very much appreciated; I’ve noticed that calling Cuban numbers from a US mobile is very expensive.
Hope I get to meet you in La Habana!
Hahaha! yes, US visitors (we’re flooded these days!) are a bit shocked to learn about how really tough communication is to/from this island. Par for the course for us, but a new experience for many not to have instant phone/email/internet communication. You can drop donations off at Cuba Libro. Ask for Douglas. Thanks in advance and have a great trip
You inspire me greatly & I would like to meet you when I enter the country (hopefully soon). Please check out my newest entries if you have any desire to mentor a young traveler with the hopes of pursuing a life like yours.
Thanks for your comment. Perennially broke, living in a food insecure context, far from my family and friends, with no access to my bank account and living under a blockade? Not sure I’d recommend ANYONE pursue a life like mine!! That’s just my black humor coming out….really though, my best advice is: get out there and explore, create adventures, write about them, grow your network and be open to serendipity. Good luck!!
I went to Cuba for 10 days in July as part of a concert tour for our local choir. We were shuffled between Varadero, Havana and Vinales and definitely did
the tourist-all-inclusive thing. This “forbidden land” has always fascinated me, but I believe that I only got some very tiny glimpses of the real deal.
Boy, how I wish I had found your blog before we went! It may not have made much difference as we were highly encouraged to stick to the tour protocol, but I would have been much the wiser, nevertheless.
One of the Cuban men associated with our tour put the bum’s rush on me and I fell for it. I should actually say that I fell off a cliff! After a few months of torrid emails, it abruptly ended, ostensibly when the wife found out, although I can’t say for certain that this is what happened, or even if there was a wife (probably was, though.) There was definitely a certain amount of deceit on his part, but I naively followed along until it was over just as soon as it began.
If nothing else, it made this old hippie-cum-Berkeley chick evaluate what’s really important to me and how my 40 year old marriage is desperately lacking in every and all of those qualities. I was definitely ripe for an emotional blow-out.
This Cubano made me feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet! I have rarely been made to feel that way, even when I was younger. How lovely to feel appreciated as a woman and be made to feel that I was so special to one person! There was never any mention of money or his moving to the states, yada yada. What I find curious is why he chose me to focus on… a woman traveling with her adult son within a large group. Was there a definite attraction? Did he like me as a person? Or, sinisterly, did he just subconsciously perceive that as my middle age runs out, I would be an easy target? (BTW, I’m a very healthy 60, and have been told that I look like an attractive 40 year old, so I like to think that it wasn’t like he was hitting on Abuela…) I guess I’ll never know the answer to those questions, and I’m probably intellectualizing way too much.
Now that I’ve had this little catharsis, I have some very practical questions to ask of you. In spite of my experience, I’m not done with Cuba yet. Although this tour was lovely in many ways, it’s not my preferred mode of travel. I can be adventurous and don’t mind forgoing a few creature comforts, if need be. I love being spontaneous and I love road trips, going wherever the spirit leads. I don’t mind traveling alone, although I much prefer to be with people. My biggest problem: I don’t speak Spanish. Is this a deal breaker for hitting the road in Cuba? I’ve managed Mexico pretty well, and with a background in French I can usually figure things out, although carrying on a conversation is out of the question. It seems like I would be missing out on so much in getting to know Cuban people and enjoying the culture. My son is totally bilingual, and of course it would be great to have him come along, but that may not be possible.
What is the car rental situation in Cuba? Would it be practical/acceptable for an older (chronologically, not in spirit) woman to wander alone willy-nilly through the wilds of Cuba, until I’ve pretty much exhausted the place? Would it really and truly be safe to travel that way?
Do you think there would be a problem with the men? Truthfully, i desperately crave romance in my life, but I don’t want to seem like an easy mark, and I don’t want to get my heart broken again. Am I just tempting fate?
I’ve really only started scratching the surface of reading your articles, but I find them highly informative and very amusing. They really hit the spot for me! Thanks, Conner!
Hola Mickie! Sorry for the late reply. Lots of doings here in hot Havana. It sounds like you very much have your eyes wide open when it comes to this fellow/those of his ilk and Im glad it hasn’t soured you on this amazing, confusing and beautiful isle. As for traveling solo, without Spanish. YES!!!! This is totally doable (I offer tons of relevant advice in my new book just out, 100 Places in Cuba Every Woman Should Go) and safe. Rental cars are available, but expensive – maybe bus to those areas with bus access and rent a car in between to get off the beaten track. As for being an “easy mark” – in my experience, almost all foreigners are viewed as an easy mark – regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, etc. Its more how you handle it and it sounds like you’ve got it under control. 😉
Thanks for reading and commenting. Maybe Ill see you next time Im in Cuba. Cheers!
Thanks for getting back to me! Curious what the “doin’s” are in Havana..
Is it life as normal or are there special events going on?
I still feel rather wistful about my “Havana experience.” I hurled every creative insult at my target that this keyboard could muster, including some choice Cuban slang (not bad for a non-Spanish speaker,) but I wonder if any of the shit stuck. Maybe it caused a gale of laughter… perhaps he hates my guts, but probably he couldn’t care less and has moved on to other adventures. Oh, well, all things will pass., and this will too. Ever feel like you are the Ann Landers of Cuba?
Your suggestions are great, and I will definitely buy your book, once I get another paycheck under my belt… I blew my wad on an all-inclusive tour last summer, LOL! Thanks for the encouragement.
I just read that next year American Airlines will open up flights from Miami to Santiago de Cuba. This would a be a great jumping off point to tour the eastern side of Cuba and terminate in Havana, without having to backtrack. Unfortunately for me, I’m stuck with an academic schedule, which translates to wanderlust-ing or just plain lusting in summer’s frying pan. Being originally from the New York area– just over the river from your original stomping grounds— we do get a taste of this during the dog days every year, when the pavement buckles and an ambrosia of rotten fruit and urine sear one’s nostrils I KNOW you KNOW what I mean! Two or three weeks and it’s over, though, and it doesn’t hang around interminably, like I would imagine it does in Cuba.
How very sad that Cubans look at all foreigners as easy marks. I suppose, in the struggle for survival, one can’t judge too harshly, and I know there are other qualities that are both endearing and enduring. I found a sweet, self-effacing sense of humor that rests side by side with the rampant machismo and over-confidence. Perhaps it was just the people I met… those in the tourist industry may not be truly representative of the general population. Would you corroborate this, or am I out to almuerzo?
Whenever I find myself in Havana again, Conner, I will try to find you and haunt you! Thanks again and take care!
Hi Mickie. Since we last corresponded, Ive had TWO friends completely duped with the long grift – love, paperwork, passports, travel and adios with some raging infidelities and families in the know going along with the scam thrown into the mix. An ugly, ugly business. Also, two other foreigners who bought houses in Cuba only to be locked out upon return. And this is just in the past month! So is it just those in the tourist sector? A question of survival? Something in the cultural alchemy? Not sure, but I always, always advise people to go slowly and become as fluent in Spanish as possible as fast as possible. I have one friend who can not communicate with his wife or his family because they don’t share a common language. Im afraid they’re plotting against him with him right there in the rocking chair! But it sounds like you have your feet on the ground. Cheers!
Conner! I’ve been devouring your blog and your book since finding both while prepping for our upcoming trip to Cuba Nov. 18-23. Will you be around? I would love to see you. It’s been awhile since we last hung out…circa 1995 in your SF Mission apt!
Hola Lynn!! Of course I remember you. And Cuba Libro will be open our regular hours while you’re here Mon-Sat 10am-7pm. Ahhhh, the old San Francisco days. I don’t miss them much (except for the burritos and escaping with the boss and colleagues at my SF Public Library gig days to go to Baker Beach). Have a wonderful trip, Hope to see you here.
Yikes, Conner, this is not a ringing endorsement of your adopted countryfolk! It’s sad that one must always be on their guard if in any kind of relationship with a Cuban. I’m so glad that I have jettisoned any thoughts of that! Over the Malecon wall we go!
I do want to run away to somewhere warm and Trump-less, however, or at least be in a place where most people can see that the emperor has no clothes> (Not that I would want to see that— just the thought is revolting!!!)
Just curious, how much unfiltered American news you personally have access to… Are you in the same predicament as the rest of Cuba, or have you divined clandestine ways to access CNN? Are you able to bribe the concierge in the Presidente or have set up your ham radio to get your fill of stateside news? (I’m sure you probably can’t stomach much!) Every day the situation gets worse and worse. This dude is unbelievable— I lived through Watergate and didn’t think I would ever see a president more corrupt than Nixon, but here we are!
Hola Mickie. As an accredited journalist and with the Wifi spots all around the country, it’s not hard to access US-produced news. However, one of the lovely things about living in Cuba is that folks realize that the US in NOT the center of the world and we get lots of news from around the world that is not US centric. Telesur, for instance, covers the entire hemisphere, plus global news. Another lovely thing about here is that it is easy to disconnect and enter media blackout (should one wish) which helps keep us focused on what’s important and real and not the dog and pony show currently occupying the White House. Thanks for reading!
Hola, based in Western Europe, I follow the rare news about Cuba and I can imagine (or maybe I can’t) that the current economic situation means “human suffering on a national scale”. In your article, you write that some tourists still come to Cuba. In fact, I had planned to come there for three weeks by the end of this year, mostly traveling around fwith my friend, staying in casas particulares. However, I don’t know anymore if us coming to Cuba would to a certain degree be beneficial to the locals or if it would be the contrary – I really don’t want to pick someone’s lunch; I have just read a sad article about the current scarcity of food and everyday articles.I would really love to know your opinion about that. Muchas gracias! Sarah
Hi Sarah. My personal view is: come to Cuba. enjoy this wonderful country. pump $$ into the economy (as you observe: we need it!). but one thing is to come as an informed visitor (which obviously, you are since you’ve written in with concerns). Don’t worry about “picking someone’s lunch”. Dietary norms and customs are very different bw cubans and foreigners (for the most part, most of the time – a lil caveat for those who like to jump on me). For instance: breakfast for a cuban is a strong espresso and a cigarette, maybe a roll. Lunch is a heavily laden plate of rice, beans, pork, tuber and maybe a few cucumber slices. At casa particulars, they like to put out a HUGE breakfast spread that no one can eat in its entirety, with 5 different types of tropical fruit, butter, cheese etc. Indulge in this once in a while and there’s no problem. Otherwise, make your own breakfast (in a casa w a kitchen) or procure items at an agromercado – this will also give you an idea of food availability and prices and contribute to a more experiential travel adventure
I thoroughly appreciate these stories.
Thank you. How can I support your work?
Hi Sylvia. Thanks so much for the virtual “shot in the arm.” I definitely need it these days!
There’s my writing work and my Cuba Libro work. For the former, you can share my blog and work at http://www.mediccreview.org on social media; buy one of my books; and connect me with a cracker jack agent so I can get my NEXT book published (shot in the dark, but what the hell!)
As for Cuba Libro, again, following us on social media (FB, instagram), reviewing on TripAdvisor (if you’ve ever been to our oasis), or helping us keep staff minimum salaries and phones recharged during COVID-19 are practical ways.
Regardless, just you reading and writing in is a source of support, so THANK YOU.
I thoroughly appreciate these stories.
Thank you. How can I support your work?
Sorry I never answered you. Things have spiraled wildly out of control (and I haven’t written at all during COVID except ABOUT COVID, which doesn’t help my mental health much) but Im trying to get back on track. ‘Good luck with that,’ she says to self.
The best way to support my work is: buy one of my books; write to your congressperson to lift the embargo (if you’re from the USA); follow and share posts about Cuba Libro within your social media networks. And of course, visit Cuba and Cuba Libro when it’s safe to do so!!
The correct word for it stopped raining in Cuban is escampo and not descampo unless it was changed post Castro.
Word has it you are a very knowledgeable person on most things Cuba — I’m here to learn.
Welcome!! Not sure from whose lips those words came, but it’s all about the learning for me, too. Even after 20 years, I;m still trying to understand.
I am planning to visit Cuba in April, are you still living in Cuba? I wanna visit Cuba Libro!
Sorry for the late reply. It’s kinda crazy here – and yes, here means Havana!! Cuba Libro is, incredibly given current circumstances, better and more popular than ever. We are doing all kinds of cultural events and have been approved as a Local Development Project. Incredibly (again, given current context), it’s a really interesting time to be here.
Please try and stop by when you’re in town. Cuba Libro hours are: Tues-Sat 10am-8pm, Sundays 11am-8pm. We often have to close in the afternoons because we are full to capacity – our strategy has worked so well, the space is actually small for us now, but it’s all we’ve got, so we’re making it work!
Have a great trip!