As a Cuban American I had many desires to travel back to see where I was born and meet the family I left behind, but going back had many mix emotions with my family members.
It had been 43 years since I had left Cuba in 1969 to escape what had become Communist Cuba. I was only three years old at the time with no memory or recollections of what we left behind. Most of our family had emigrated the same year we left and others the following. Each with a unique story of how they got out. My father who was a Spanish citizen left a year before us to Spain, and ended up in New Jersey awaiting our arrival. My mother tells the story that we were given two days notice and left with what we were able to fit inside our suitcase.
After months of collecting clothes, shoes, blankets, sheets, medicines, and food. We were ready to go to Cuba. Traveling to Havana Cuba with over 250 pounds of luggage with only 45 pounds allowed for each of us was challenging.
I didn’t understand why we had to get to the airport four hours ahead of our flight. The check-in process was very unorganized and recidivous. It made us feel as if we were in another country. By then again, if you have ever travel out of the Miami Airport who doesn’t feel that way. The trip in itself is short. It took us 45 minutes to fly from Miami to Havana. Once you get to Havana you collect your bags and they weigh them at the airport. Since we went over on the weight we had to pay extra, not only in Miami but in Cuba too.
As we walk thru the exit doors we met up with my cousins who had been waiting for us. It was the first time after months, years of communication via emails and phone calls that we met face-to-face. Since we had so much luggage and it was the three of us traveling (husband, daughter, and me) only two members of the family came to greet us at the airport.
One of the first things we noticed at the airport where all the old antique cars parked in the lot and as we drove through the streets of Havana. It was quite a site to see.
I was told that Havana was an enchanting and captivating city, with the twists and turns of its compelling history and rich culture. Nowhere is there uniformity, with the hotchpotch of buildings and people presenting a different set of stop-and-stare images on every street.
Usually when we travel, we pick the nicest hotels but our first night in Havana created a special challenge. The trip was about visiting relatives. How could we spend $300 Euros for a night in a hotel when the cousin I’m visiting in Cuba makes $20 a month? So we stayed in a relatives house on the outskirts of Havana.
The house of course did not have air conditioning. The shower was a bucket of water with a cup in it. My daughter had a look of horror when she saw that. It also had no mirrors. It’s funny when you have to loan your mirror to your husband to shave in the morning.
Havana is beautiful at night, especially along the “Malecon” which is the seawall promenade that stretches four miles along Havana’s Colonial and historic center. Most people visiting Cuba prefer coming here shortly before the sun begins to set. The magical sunsets over the Bay of Havana shine onto pastel-colored buildings. The sunsets here are breathtaking, but last for only a brief moment in time. Fortunately, day or night the Malecón is a theater showcasing a delightful cast of residents from all walks of life, and perhaps no other location provides better insight into life in Havana. At night it’s lined with people sitting around talking, playing music and just having a good time. Havana is also the stage where the Gumball Rally, a luxury car road trip and action-packed event joined by millionaires and celebrities, will conclude.
After a night in Havana we drove four hours to the town of Placetas which is about 45 minutes from Santa Clara.
Read Our Travels to Cuba – Placetas next….