Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel, has been in San Francisco this week to to take part in panel discussions hosted by the Latin American Studies Association. The San Francisco Examiner stated that she is a “sexologist and gay rights activist.” She spoke at the LGBT Center and at San Francisco General Hospital (where I worked many moons ago). As expected, there is much criticism from all directions about her receiving a visa to visit the U.S. The left and the right are already going at it, accusing each other of injustices, preferences, and prejudices related to her being allowed to enter the U.S., while other Cubans were denied visas. Just like the hostile bantering that goes back and forth between the U.S. presidential candidates, the screaming and hollering that we are continually subjected to about Cuba from opposite extremist groups is really getting annoying. I personally believe that if you view these comments from an economic perspective, things make a lot more sense. The radical exiles in Miami fully expect to return to Cuba someday to claim beaches and mansions that their grandparents left behind a half century ago. Thus it is in their interest to keep the poor country from developing economically by supporting the embargo. Intentionally or otherwise, the embargo helps keep the Castro brothers in power, and keeps the country’s economy in disaster mode. After the Castros pass on, the radical elements hope to triumphantly return to their “homeland” with enough money to rebuild the country and be treated as heroes. They would like to install one of the exiles as the next president. (A couple years ago I met a family in Havana who hated Fidel and Raul, but they were also adamant that Cuba’s future would not be determined by the exiles. They said that there was no way that exiles would be accepted as Cuba’s new leaders. To paraphrase their comments: “They can come back and invest if they want, but the future leaders will be those who didn’t desert, stayed here, and put up with this crap.” This point of view is just one more element of the confusing, complex, and hyper-emotional situation that defines today’s Cuba.)
On the other hand, the Cubans in Cuba would like the country to continue to exist without foreign control by continuing to build up their tourism sector. They understand that sometime in the next ten years, the Castros will be dead, and the majority of tourists will be visitors from the U.S. Although we are a tiny minority of travelers now, the number of Americans visiting Cuba has tripled this year, and will likely triple again every year until we have become the large majority. There are at least two current trends that will likely accelerate American travel to Cuba: many American tourists seem to be less likely to endure the time, expense, and hassles to travel great distances to Europe and Asia. Also, Mexico’s reputation as a tourist destination continues to deteriorate. This is of course primarily due to increased violence because of America’s “War on Drugs.” Thanks again, Congress, for more laws that have made life much more difficult for us, as well as for citizens of other nations.
It would have been nice if American businesspeople could have helped with Cuba’s massive economic transition. But instead of U.S. companies being involved, it is companies from Canada and Brazil and China and Spain and elsewhere. On our recent trip, we saw many new hotels being built at Varadero. Back in Havana, we visited the Hemingway Marina, where China’s state-run Suntine International-Economic Trading Company is partnering with Cuba to build a luxury resort. Their stated target market: wealthy Americans! Thanks again, Congress.
So what does all this have to do with Mariela Castro’s visit to San Francisco? My theory is that her publicity will greatly increase interest in travel to Cuba by LGBT travelers. Thirty years ago, Cuba was well-known as a homophobic country, and that reputation has persisted. In reality, Cuba is now known as one of the most gay-friendly countries in all of Latin America. It would be interesting to check with travel agencies in San Francisco in a month or two to see how much demand has increased due to all this free publicity.
So that’s part of THE plan. We are already seeing significant increases in hotel rates and Cuba tours due to increasing demand. The Cuban government would love to use principles of Capitalism (supply and demand) to extract more and more dollars from Americans, and then they can split them with the Chinese communists. Isn’t it interesting how all these countries are heading in opposite directions? The “communist” countries have mastered the principles of capitalism, while capitalistic America seems to be headed in the opposite direction.