It’s Sunday, and after breakfast, we boarded our bus to continue with our program. We found out that our itinerary would be modified to reflect the fact that some of our speakers were now assisting in the far eastern part of the country. Hurricane Sandy really hammered that area, and it plowed through the middle of Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city.
We visited the Revolutionary Museum in the former Presidential Palace. This was a good place to start. Our Cuban guide, who will be with us throughout our visit, speaks excellent English and is very informative. Some of our travelers commented that he freely talked about the problems and “many mistakes” of the government after the revolution. We went on a really interesting walking tour of Old Havana. Even though many of the buildings are crumbling, a lot of them have been rehabilitated and now look new. Only the ornate fronts of some buildings have been salvaged, and new construction is taking place behind these front walls.
We also visited Revolutionary Square, where up to a million people have gathered for political rallies and for concerts. As in other countries, the political rallies are attended by the true believers, lukewarm moderates, and those interested in socializing over a bottle of rum.
We had some discussions about health care in Cuba. The consensus is that it is universal, very basic, and usually short of supplies. It is easy for Cuban families to access the first level of care—the local community clinic, where a physician and nurse are able to screen for illnesses and refer patients to the next higher level of care.
I don’t have time to discuss the many scheduled and serendipitous activities we’ve enjoyed during our first two days. By now, it seems like we’ve been here for a awhile, and Cuba is starting to feel like a new home away from home. Tonight we’re going out to listen to more terrific Cuban music!