#mitúWORLD

What Cubanos Really Think Of All The Tourists Taking Over Their Beloved Cuba

Writer-photographer Walter Thompson-Hernández, the creator behind Blaxicans of Los Angeles, is currently in Cuba, where he is meeting, and photographing, Cubans across the island. Along the way, he’s asked Cubans, young and old alike, about their views, hopes and concerns for their country’s future.


Even as Cuba sits on the precipice of what might be yet another large scale economic and political restructuring, for many of the island’s youth–and an increasing number of foreign tourists–the revolutionary propaganda that lines the island’s streets exist only as a reminder of an era in Cuba’s history that has been canonized by popular culture. For others, however, the revolution is more than aesthetic or hallowed rhetoric. These people, well into their golden years, can still vividly recall the day their lives were directly impacted by the outset of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Some were young children, while others were well into their early 20s when the first shots were fired on the Southern shores of Playa Girón.

All of these perspectives form the Cuban experience. Here, then, are the stories of the Cuban people — young and old — in their own words:

Pedro and Giovanny, 11

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“People always get us confused for each other and our teacher says we’re the best mathematicians in our school.”

Bertha and Ignacia, 75 and 73

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“We’ve been friends for over 40 years. We’ve seen it all.”

Yasmani, 24

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m a writer, poet, radio dj, and cultural promoter. I am inspired by my reality and my society. I try to change the negative things that I encounter. When I started my first poetry project called “El Sendero De La Poesía,” I was told that I was crazy, but as time has passed, people saw that I wasn’t crazy. That project has united a lot of people that I love. It’s always important to change reality for the better.”

Juan, 86

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I am grateful that I have friends and family that take care of me. I go to church almost every day where they help with my laundry, give me food, and allow me to socialize with my group of friends.”

Mercedes, 32

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I think tourists help our economy, but I don’t like to socialize with them because a lot of them come to Cuba for the wrong reasons. I think we’re going to have to find ways to become more self-sufficient in the future.”

Mari Julia, 84

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“Life can be difficult here, but we find ways to overcome a lot of the challenges that we face.”

Hector, 14

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m from central Havana and baseball is my favorite sport; I hope to achieve the things I want to achieve through it. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I just hope that I can keep playing baseball.”

Camita, 86

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“Cooking allows me remember my mother and what she taught me. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I do know that I hope I can cook for as long as I live.”

Reynaldo and Ivan, 7 and 10

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m his older brother.”

Maria Luisa, 75

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

Maria Luisa is unable to speak. She is battling Alzheimer’s.

Surisaday, 25

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I am from El Cobre, a small neighborhood here in Santiago de Cuba. I’m a singer and go against the grain, trying to move past a lot of the limitations that we experience here. I’m always trying to inspire young people like myself.”

Omar, 75

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I work as a watchman and look after this home every night. When I was younger I traveled to Guatemala to work for the government, but now my days are spent watching this home. I was happy that President Obama visited the island – now I want to see Cuba reach levels it’s never reached before.”

Maite, 20

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I studied music and piano in school for many years. I also earned a lot of national awards and graduated. I realized that I wanted more than classic piano, so I began to sing when I was 11 years old. Today, I’m a singer, producer, manage several groups, and helped to bring the Manana festival to Santiago.”

Hilario, 81

Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I live in Los Angeles and I am back to visit my family. I moved to the United States in 1967 and worked in different jobs. I retired years ago and spend a lot of time with other Cubans who also left the island in L.A.”


READ: Hiiii Khloe, How’s Your Cuba Trip Going? Can We Chat About Something For A Sec?

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Culture

In Cuba, Where Food Is Unreliable, Savvy Cooks Have Turned to Facebook to Share Recipes

Photo via Getty Images

COVID-19 hasn’t been easy for Cubans. Not only have Cubans been physically affected by the virus like the rest of the world, but the drop in the island’s gross domestic product has stymied local economic productivity. The island can no longer look to tourism to add to their GDP.

Because of this drop in GDP, food shortages on the island have become more severe than in recent memory. And Cuban cooks are feeling the effects.

Cubans must stand in line for hours at markets with no guarantees that the ingredients that they want will be available.

This way of living is especially hard for Cuban cooks, like 39-year-old Yuliet Colón. For Colón, cooking is both a creative expression and a stress reliever. “The kitchen is my happy place, where I am calmer and I feel better,” she recently revealed to the Associated Press.

Yuliet Colón is one of the creators of a Facebook page called Recetas del Corazón that has changed the cooking game for thousands of Cubans.

Now, thanks to Colón and other curious and generous Cuban cooks like her, Recipes from the Heart is now 12,000 members strong.

The goal of the page is to help struggling Cuban cooks cope with food shortages. Members of the page share creative recipes, tips, and food substitutions. Launched in June of 2020, the page was an instant success. Its success proves that Cubans have been desperate to find ways to adapt their cooking to the post-COVID-era.

To AP News, Yuliet Colón laments about the lack of rice, beans, cheese, fruit, and, most of all, eggs. “What I like the most is making desserts, but now it’s hard to get eggs, milk or flour,” she revealed.

The brightside is, however, that Cuban cooks are finally able to share food-related tips and tricks with each other on a much larger scale than they were before the internet became more widespread in the country.

Now that many Cubans have access to communication apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, they can now connect with one another and make the most of what they have–however little that may be.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Things That Matter

This Is How Cuba Is Developing Its Own COVID Vaccine When It Can Barely Get Daily Necessities To The Island

Cuba has long been a biotech juggernaut in the Caribbean. When health crises emerge around the globe or there’s a medical disaster, Cuba is often one of the first nation’s to send medical staff and emergency workers to help. Its medical team has become part of the country’s diplomacy.

But the Coronavirus pandemic has brought economic devastation to a country already facing severe economic issues. Many on the island struggle to even find daily necessities like Tylenol or Band-Aids yet the Cuban government is just steps away from developing its own vaccine against COVID-19. How is this possible?

Cuban researches are making their own Coronavirus vaccine and seeing great results.

Currently on the island, there are five vaccine candidates in development, with two already in late-stage trials. Cuban officials say they’re developing cheap and easy-to-store serums. They are able to last at room temperature for weeks, and in long-term storage as high as 46.4 degrees, potentially making them a viable option for low-income, tropical countries that have been pushed aside by bigger, wealthier nations in the international race for coronavirus vaccines.

If they’re successful and developing and rolling out the vaccine, Cuba – a country where the average scientific researcher earns about $250 a month — could be among the first nations in the world to reach herd immunity, putting it in a position to lure vaccine tourists and to export surpluses of what officials claim could reach 100 million doses by year’s end.

If they pull this off, it would be a big win for the communist government.

Achieving success would be an against-the-odds feat of medical science and a public relations win for the isolated country of 11 million people. Cuba was just added back to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in the final days of the Trump administration.

It could also make Cuba the pharmacist for nations lumped by Washington into the so-called “Axis of Evil.” Countries like Iran and Venezuela have already inked vaccine deals with Havana. Iran has even agreed to host a Phase 3 trial of one of Cuba’s most promising candidates — Soberana 2 — as part of a technology transfer agreement that could see millions of doses manufactured in Iran.

“We have great confidence in Cuban medical science and biotechnology,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told The Washington Post this week. “It will not only be fundamental for Venezuela, but for the Americas. It will be the true solution for our people.”

So how is Cuba managing to pull this off despite all the challenges they face?

Cuba is an authoritarian, one-party state with strict controls on everything from free speech and political activism to social media and LGBTQ rights. But the island has always invested heavily in education and healthcare, which has led to an unusually sophisticated biotechnology industry for a small developing country, with at least 31 research companies and 62 factories with over 20,000 workers.

Should Cuba’s vaccines succeed, its researchers will have overcome even more hurdles than their peers in Western labs — including shortages of equipment, spare parts and other supplies, due in part to U.S. sanctions

A successful vaccine could also become a vital new source of revenue for Cuba, which has been suffering a brutal economic crisis that has citizens waiting hours in line to buy scarce food, soap and toothpaste. The economy worsened under Trump-era sanctions that tightened the long-standing U.S. economic embargo of Cuba by curbing remittances, scaling back U.S. flights, ending cruise ship passenger traffic and further complicating Cuba’s access to the global financial system. President Biden has called for a possible return to Obama-era policies, but he has made no such moves yet.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com