Tourists came to Cuba for fun but got Castro funeral instead
By Daniel Trotta | HAVANA
They came to Cuba for an education, plus some fun and games, but got a
state funeral instead.
Some of the Americans touring Cuba when Fidel Castro died on Friday at
age 90 feared there might be civil unrest and a major security
operation. Their angst was allayed when they saw a massive outpouring of
public admiration for Castro.
U.S. law still bans trips strictly for pleasure to Cuba but allows
educational "people-to-people" visits. The Americans whose visits
coincided with this moment in Cuban history say they learnt far more
than they would have on a normal programme with rum-tasting and salsa
music on the side.
The government declared nine days of mourning and suspended live music,
alcohol sales and other diversions.
The Rice University baseball team from Houston had to cancel four of
five exhibition games against Cuban professional teams. Others had to
abort plans to attend the famed Tropicana nightclub or a Placido Domingo
concert. Even the Fine Arts Museum was closed.
The Rice baseball players, who are also completing a course in Cuban
culture and history, suddenly had more study time in addition to the 50
hours planned during the trip. A scheduled salsa class on Thursday, now
deemed inappropriate, was changed to modern dance instruction without
music. The players and their Cuban dancer counterparts had fun anyway.
"It was a spontaneous eruption of youthful energy," said Greg
Thielemann, a humanities professor travelling with the team.
Coach Wayne Graham said his players gained empathy with Cuba and the
experience "might be life-altering for some of them."
Many Americans have been rushing to get to Cuba since U.S. President
Barack Obama eased travel restrictions last year, filling Havana's
hotels and restaurants.
"We wanted to get here before the Americans even though we are the
Americans," said Jean Goodnight, who was on a National Geographic-led
tour. "We were touched by the Cuban people, how much love they had for
Fidel, and he was their hero."
Others remarked that Cuban displays of support, whether through
conviction or a sense of obligation in a one-party state where little
dissent is tolerated, contrasted with images from Miami, where Cuban
exiles celebrated the death of a man they considered a tyrant.
"You come away with some appreciation of how complicated and nuanced
everything is," said James Leipold, a Washington lawyer, "that it is not
the black and white we learnt in school."
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Marc Frank; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Source: Tourists came to Cuba for fun but got Castro funeral instead |
Reuters - http://uk.mobile.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN13R20I