Red Daughter wrote:
How were politics? Or, what impression did you get of the average Cuban and politics/political involvement? Did most seem to care about being involved and participatory?
You couldn't really escape politics anywhere in Cuba. On the roads and highways you would often come up on a billboard proclaiming to "Defend Socialism", or about Justice, murals of Che were everywhere, and many establishments had a lot of stuff on freeing the Cuban 5. Stuff like this;
The general feeling I got was one of participation and involvement, but not in a "Communist Party reaches into all areas of your life" way...All major towns had a Communist Party HQ, but membership of the party is not open to all. You must have a good standing in your area and be a leader in your own community before you are allowed to join. For the average Cuban not in the party, involvement is still quite a major thing. From the people I spoke to, and from what I witnessed, people seemed to see their position in their society as part of a greater working machine. Many actively take place in Elections, and are involved in their local politics. But equally, I didn't get the impression that people had to do anything...if politics isn't your thing, you are under no real pressure to become actively involved...
Red Daughter wrote:
Did you get a sense of how most people felt about Cuba in general? Did they think it oppressive and "totalitarian", or did it seem that way to you; or were they proud and happy of Cuba?
On the whole, I did feel that despite the hardships that Cuba has to endure, the people were quite happy. Speaking with our guide about what will happen after Fidel Castro dies, he said how many Cubans believe their will be a rapid change in their society. Our guide wasn't convinced, saying that he felt the government had been preparing for it for a long time, and is already gradually changing in order to avoid rapid change and collapse. There does seem to be a genuine love for Fidel though, and I was not surprised when he said that if Fidel died tomorrow, and the US tried to come into Cuba, if the Cuban people were still defiant in the style of Fidel.
As for oppression, I honestly got quite the opposite feeling. People seemed to be genuinely free. Our last few days in Havana coincided with the Havana Carnival, a week long event which transformed the sea front into one big party. People were out in their numbers having a really good time. In the day, Havana bloomed like any other city, with markets, people running about doing their daily business, folk eating, etc. It was no different to any other city in the world...After having any reservations about "The Party" controlling the daily lives of Cubans, they were smashed when our guide began speaking and criticising some aspects of Cuban life (something which we hadn't expected), and after meeting a man sporting a "Barack Obama" t-shirt. I honestly felt no feelings of oppression, and felt safer anywhere in Cuba than say London.
The one thing that could be construed as "Oppressive" was that there is a massively active Police force who stand guard on corners...but you feel no fear from them, as they smile, and say hello, and asked "Are you enjoying Cuba?".
By the Way: I have uploaded my Photos to my Facebook...anyone interested in seeing, give me a shout.