In this edition, news editor Matthew Townsend reports from a recent visit to Cuba. Townsend writes:
Visitors’ experience of Cuban citizens — who are often friendly and will readily engage in conversation on the streets — and the Cuban government can come into conflict with their expectations. A potential trap: playing to a paradisiacal vision of what Arrocha calls “the plastic Cuba” to visiting foreigners, in which “Cuba is the island of the cigars, Cuba is the island of the rum, Cuba is the island of mulattas and mulattos dancing salsa on the beach.” Part of introducing Americans to Cubans involves showing the history and change present in the country, including more relaxed attitudes about religion and LGBT people that have emerged in the last few decades.
A desire to “see Cuba before it changes” often motivates visiting Americans. Arrocha described this as a mix of fear about an encroachment of McDonald’s and the belief that a transition to a capitalist system is inevitable. These possibilities were on Sarah Kirchman’s mind. Kirchman, who worships at St. David’s Church in Columbia, South Carolina, joined Roman Catholic friends Arlene Rowland and Freda Crawford for Celestyal [Cruises’] journey in mid-May. Like everything else in Cuba, the portents of change are complicated.
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