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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“Arranged Historical Place as Museum”

In the latest pull-out-of-the-middle-and-bin travel supplement in the Radio Times, there is an advert for going on holiday in Cuba:

Warm golden sand touched by shimmering seas, endlessly clear and calm. Sparkling contrasts. A deep sense of harmony. Cuba is life.

Unless you are one of the poor bastards who actually has to live there.

A Cuba tourism website was mentioned at the bottom of the advert. I went there, seeking further Cubanities to sneer at. I was not disappointed. In the Knowing Culture section, I read:

Cuba’s cultura is very prestigious. It happy people live very rooted to its traditions and customs. If you want to know about that go and visit the museums.

“Rooted to its traditions and customs” as in “bugger all has happened for the last fifty years”. Say what you like about communism, at least it avoids disfiguring the landscape with a lot of mucky economic development. Well, muck they can do. It’s the economic development they avoid. Film companies love communism, because huge swathes of ancient places get preserved by it as if in aspic, needing only a scrub-down and then some mending and a lick of paint to bring the distant past back to instant and authentic life.

As the heading says here, about some very boring-looking historical building:

Arranged Historical Place as Museum

A phrase that would do well as a description of Cuba itself. One instinctively knows which questions not to ask.

Meanwhile, back at the Knowing Culture section, the blurb ends thus:

If you take a tour of our cities you will see the development of music, dance or plastic arts, manifestations that have left a trace in the world.

Mostly in Miami.

So, potential tourists living outside Cuba have no problem accessing the internetted tourist version of Cuba. But what is internet access like for the the natives?

With less than 2 per cent of its population online, Cuba is one of the most backward Internet countries. An investigation carried out by Reporters Without Borders in October revealed that the Cuban government uses several levers to ensure that this medium is not used in a “counter-revolutionary” way. Firstly, it has more or less banned private Internet connections. To surf the Internet or check their e-mail, Cubans have to go to public access points such as Internet cafes, universities and “youth computer clubs” where their activity is more easily monitored. Secondly, the computers in all the Internet cafes and leading hotels contain software installed by the Cuban police that triggers an alert message whenever “subversive” key-words are spotted. The regime also ensures that there is no Internet access for dissidents and independent journalists, for whom communicating with people abroad is an ordeal. Finally, the government also relies on self-censorship. You can get 20 years in prison for writing “counter-revolutionary” articles for foreign websites. You can even get five years just for connecting to the Internet illegally. Few Internet users dare to run the risk of defying the regime’s censorship.

Which would explain the “deep sense of harmony”.

9 comments to “Arranged Historical Place as Museum”

  • guy herbert

    I once received a fan-email for one of my clients from Cuba. It was less how they got email access that puzzled me than how they got a filthy capitalist computer game (on an entirely capitalistic theme as was the case, too).

  • The gushing nonsense aside, Cuba is supposed to be a great place to go on holiday. My dad goes with his wife and two kids every year, and stay in a Western style resort which is pretty damned cheap. The kids love it. He also said the place is nice to look at and it does have an interesting history, although the interesting parts all predate Castro’s assumption of power. I’m sure it would be worth a visit for several reasons, but none of them to do with the current regime whatsoever. Certainly my dad hasn’t got much time for Castro, communism, or any other such nonsense.

  • Jon B

    I think a lot of people don’t realise Cuba is a prison-state. It fails a simple test of liberty: you can’t get out unless they let you(Link).

  • Nick M

    Or alternatively, there’s always the Florida Keys. Same climate, similarly nice beaches and er… not a communist hell-hole.

    I recently debated Cuba with an English commie. She stated that amongst other reasons the Cuban socialist utopia was great was that Cuba has the world’s lowest “carbon footprint”. I have no idea if this is true but what it suggested to me was that (a) bugger all happens there and (b) they are totally fucked since the Sovs collapsed and stopped bunging them oil.

    Truly amusing post Brian!

  • In case you did not bother to follow the link: those quotes are real. I just caught myself hoping that they were using Google translator…

  • Nick M


    I checked out the site and it would certainly appear that Cuba’s “very prestigious” culture doesn’t include more than a passing knowledge of English.

    Sad, when you consider there are 300 million English speakers (and some Canucks) 90 miles to the North of them.

    Gotta go now, I’m spraying beer over the keyboard because I just realised I’d typed “vulture” not “culture”. Oh, God it’s been a long week… How can a vulture be prestigious when they’re not even true raptors? Time to check out.

  • Brian

    What I’d like to know is when, as a state who’s current prosperity (and it is, by comparison) was founded on the slave trade, is going to pay compensation to the victims thereof.

    Come, on, Fidel. Its only 42 acres and a mule. Cough up.

  • Sandy P

    –Certainly my dad hasn’t got much time for Castro, communism, or any other such nonsense.–

    So why keep supporting him?

  • Paul Marks

    We all provide money to Castro whether we want to or not. But the E.U. and various U.N. agencies send money to Cuba (to look after the historic buildings and so on).

    Chevez also sends lots of cheap oil and financial support.

    The exiles in the United States send money back to help their families – however at least that is voluntary support.

    For what a socialist nation is like without such support see North Korea (although the United States and other nations send food aid and other such).