Dancing one’s way through hell

Cuba for Cubans

Another upbeat travelogue from the nether regions

If I remember correctly, Dante didn’t dance at all in The Divine Comedy, especially when he toured hell.   And he certainly was not the least bit upbeat about that part of his journey to the great beyond.

Maybe he could have taken a few tips from Carrie Seidman, who just published a piece about Castrogonia in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.  Her essay brims over with cheerfulness.

God bless Ms. Seidman.  She was born lucky.  She is still damn lucky.  Castrogonia is an exotic destination for her, and it is quite obvious that she knows next to nothing about Cuban history.

In other words, she wasn’t born in Cuba, and she has lived her entire life outside of it.

She rhapsodizes about the pastel-colored buildings and the old cars, and the warmth of the Cuban people.  Even the broken sidewalks and crumbling buildings seem to have a charm of their own.  She seems aware of the fact that there is plenty of repression for Cubans, but exults in the fact that as a tourist she felt none of it.  In fact, the worst repression she encountered came from church authorities at the cathedral in Havana who deemed her shorts too short and improper.   Just goes to show you that the Monty Python clowns were correct: nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! (Especially in a communist totalitarian state).

Poor Ms. Seidman, she can’t help the fact that she was born lucky and is still lucky.  She can’t help the fact that hell can be exotic, especially because after a few days as a tourist in hell, she was able to leave.

But Ms. Seidman has done me a great favor.  She has helped me realize what is wrong with every travel account written by non-Cubans who visit Cuba, especially those from Europe and North America.  The ignorance displayed in all such accounts is too colossal, and what is described is far too embarrassing and shame-inducing for Cubans, especially for Cubans who knew Cuba before it became Castrogonia.

Here is what it feels like to read a piece such as Ms. Seidman’s:  imagine that many of your relatives took a wrong turn and became criminals and deadbeats.  Or worse, imagine that part of your family became psychopathic monsters who enslaved the rest of your family, raped them several times a day, and turned them into slaves.

How can anyone deal with such shame, such grief, such desolation.  Imagine reading about any of those relatives, be they the tormentors or the victims.  Imagine knowing that this hell created by your own family — in which your family also lives — is visited by outsiders who then broadcast to the world their naive and ignorant impressions about your family.

Suddenly, you realize that everyone who reads this travelogue will form an opinion of YOU — who you are, where you came from, what you are capable of — on the basis of such drivel.

Time to duck into a deep hole, or to seek refuge in the deepest cave on earth, or to change your identity altogether, assume another name and fake your true origins.  Yes, maybe it’s time to change your name to McKinley Morganfield, or Pierre D’Espeville, Larry Lipschitz, Tadeusz Szymreszysnkinov, or Heinrich Dingelberger.

No travelogue from hell can ever capture the real agony, the pain,  or the shame of hell or the absolute embarrassment of being related to the devils and the suffering hordes condemned to live there.

Sorry, travel writers.  Sorry, so sorry.  So embarrassed, too, that you should know that I am related to those people you encountered down there in hell.   Really, really sorry.  Believe me, I’d rather have nothing to do with that place, or those people, but I do happen to care about the victims, and the rage I feel against the demons is incalculable.

The bottom line is this: Your glowing descriptions of hell cause such exquisite pain that I find you and your words intolerable.

Next time you write about hell, please go easy on the charm.

And if you really, really do hanker to return for another tour, please keep that awfully offensive thought to yourself.

Here is the awfully offending item from the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

Cuba for tourists
Cuba for tourists: pastel-colored buildings and brightly-painted old cars

Dancing my way through Cuba

Boarding the plane at Havana’s José Martí Airport to return to Tampa after a week-long stay in Cuba, I felt pulled in two directions.

I couldn’t wait to sit down to go to the bathroom, walk on a level sidewalk and breathe something other than exhaust-filled air. And yet I didn’t want to leave this enchanting island, where music and dance are inextricably woven into the fabric of daily life, the pace is unhurried and the people are as warm as the humid air.

This conflicting pull seemed fitting, because the Cuba I experienced is a land of opposites. It’s a geographically beautiful place that has been marred by pollution and infrastructural neglect. Its people are open and generous, but the political climate remains restrictive. There is a high degree of education and appreciation of the arts, but an abysmally low standard of living.

More and more Americans are making the journey to this island 100 miles south of Key West as travel restrictions have softened. While it’s still difficult to enter as an individual, it’s relatively easy to visit as part of an academic, educational, sports or other “exchange” group.

…. much more of this travelogue  HERE.



3 thoughts on “Dancing one’s way through hell

  1. Painful to read this.

    The readers of In the Garden of Beasts who are astonished at the obtuseness of so many who were tourists in Germany just before the worst happened and looked away at what was going on right before their eyes – those readers made this book a whopping best seller, and are the same people who are capable of finding this article on Cuba charming and are the same people who go to see Sicko and find it funny and interesting.

    I remember when I was reading The Gulag Archipelago, I was the only one doing so and my friends were wondering why I was plowing through such a depressing book.Yet everyone reads In the Garden of Beasts and sees the book merely as a story about then and those people and relates the book to nothing else since.

    The same people who feel proud of themselves crying through the movie Hotel Rwanda and proudly tweet bring home our girls, do not tweet about the boys in Israel and are unable to care a fig about the suffering of the Cuban people.

    All of this selective indignation has always amazed me.

  2. And Carlos, unlike Vil Clinton, I really do feel your pain, though I refused to honor this woman’s morally obscene drivel by reading it. There is no need; all such tripe is a variation on the same theme, which we are all only too familiar with already. And no, it won’t stop, not until Cuba’s hellish situation does. But, as I have said before, we must not to expect as much (let alone more) from non-Cubans as from Cubans themselves, especially given how very, VERY badly so many Cubans have behaved and continue doing–and THAT is the real scandal and the real shame.

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