I arrived back in San Francisco about 1:00 am, picked up my car at a friend’s house, and arrived home today. I immediately sent out an email to those who came back on my flight. (Seven others stayed over and are currently roaming unknown parts of the island.) Nobody reported any problems coming through customs in Miami. As on my previous two trips as an expedition leader/facilitator, I am happy to report that nobody even had any bags opened.
I am sitting here at home, thinking about this latest trip. The news is reporting events in the Middle East, and I just can’t help contrast Cuba with what is happening on the other side of the planet. In simple terms, the cause of the fighting seems to be over land and religion, and there is civil war within Syria between two variants of the same religion. In contrast, Cuba has no contested land that I am aware of. The main island is about 750 miles long, a secondary island (The Isle of Youth) is about 30 miles across, and there are about 4,000 smaller islands. When you think about it, if it weren’t for the United States, Cuba really wouldn’t need much of a military at all. It is amazing that it has survived economically for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that the government has been forced to divert so much of its limited resources towards national defense.
As for religion–after the revolution in 1959, there was a brief time when the Catholic Church continued to have influence, but so many counter-revolutionaries and weapons were discovered in the churches that the government cracked down hard. After the Pope met Fidel at Cathedral Square in Old Havana in 1998, religion really hasn’t been much of an issue. Christmas was deemed to be legal, and Christmas decorations have been present during the holidays ever since. I have been to Cuba on trips where some of our fellow travelers were fundamentalist Christians bringing bibles, and they had no problems. They return again and again with more bibles, literature, and donations. In general, they can do pretty much what they want, as long as they don’t appear to be advocating bringing down the government. (How many countries around the world welcome visitors wanting to overthrow the host government?) In general, if you want to visit Cuba, spend money, and have fun, you’ll be fine. Just don’t publicly advocate bringing down the government, praise those who do, or bring in illegal high-tech communications equipment.