Few places in the world can illustrate the sinister and destructive powers of socialism as Havana, Cuba. Once a majestic city, it is now in ruins after 60 years of socialism.
Havana ruined, impoverished by 60 years of statism
I would like to suggest a thought experiment. What if every single person in a community had collectively decided to completely abandon their town in the 1960s without taking a thing with them, and for the ensuing 60 years no one set foot anywhere near there. Then, one year ago, the descendents of that diaspora returned to the community with little but the clothes on their backs and tried to make a life there without any of the modern conveniences of today.
Besides sounding like the premise for a promising reality TV series, that’s also the best way to conceptualize the current state of Havana, Cuba.
Since President Barack Obama permitted Americans to visit Cuba and rolled back the U.S. commercial embargo first put in place by President Kennedy, many people have evinced an urgency to visit the island — and especially Havana, its capital — before the subsequent liberalization inevitably despoils the city’s historic architecture with some gaudy capitalistic edifices.
After visiting Havana I would like to put people fearing such a development completely at rest. Nothing is going to change here anytime soon, and even if it did, it is hard to see how any change would make this a less inviting place to visit, let alone live. The sad little fact that confronts anyone who comes here with two open eyes is that 60 years of statism has resulted in an utterly ruined city and a completely impoverished citizenry. That some old buildings are still standing is of little consequence.
The town smells like the 1960s, thanks in part to the smell of burning garbage wafting over the town from a dump on the town’s outskirts, along with the emissions from automobiles from the 1950s and the odd Lada. I was unprepared for pungent air pollution triggering a Proustian-like memory, but we all have our eccentricities.
The old city’s famed architecture does have some charms, but it is not remarkably different than similar enclaves I’ve visited across Latin America except for the unfortunate fact that the buildings are almost completely unkempt and in danger of disintegrating. Here and there are ones that have completely collapsed. People have died from this lack of upkeep.
The sad and unnecessary degradation has no discernible charm, at least not to me, and the notion that the city in its current state represents some sort of unspoiled oasis — a perspective that more than one tourist I encountered here felt obligated to share with this perfect stranger — is simply condescending and smacks not a little of a colonial perspective the country’s socialist revolution was supposed to do away with.
I understand how these people arrive at this perspective — people will let their brains construct the most outrageous lies to comport what they observe with their preconceived notions. (I think of the people who referred to David Letterman or Jay Leno as being funny anytime after 1994.) However, glorifying Havana in its present state of degradation takes cognitive dissonance to an extreme.
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