10/14/13 - Washington Post (blog) - New Year's in Havana!
Fishing buddies Ernest Hemingway and then-Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro
in Havana in 1960. (AP)
Getting the shutdown blues? Thinking it's going to be a long, perilous slog
with the stock market heading south?
Then you can do the same! Yes, it's time to head down to mambo in the New
Year in Havana, land of Carmen Miranda, the Buena Vista Social Club,
ancient Buicks and aging commies. Travel companies are organizing Cuba
tours for this coming holiday season.
Loop fans may recall the anti-Cuba lobby in Miami had protested awhile ago
that the "people-to-people" cultural exchange trips - which have to be
approved by the Treasury Department - were becoming nothing more than
thinly disguised tourism. So Treasury clamped down for a while to review
But licenses have been issued "at a pretty steady clip" more recently,
according to Insight Cuba's Tom Popper, who noted the cumbersome process
still required a detailed, 632-page submission of itinerary details. The
trips are filling quickly.
There are some longer jaunts around the island from Christmas to New Year's
day and shorter hops mostly around Havana to check out the sights. There's
even a four-day weekend over New Year's. "Nothing lives up to the feeling
of singing "Auld Lang Syne with the Cubans in Cuba," the promo says. (Well,
surely we can think of some things but. . .)
This year, of course, will be especially huge in Old Havana's Cathedral
Square: It's the 55th anniversary of Fidel Castro's troops entering the
city and dictator Fulgencio Batista's hasty pre-dawn departure. (But don't
look for "Godfather II" sites or Al Pacino and Fredo photos. If memory
serves, those scenes were filmed in the Dominican Republic.)
And please be careful. We're advised that there's a Cuban tradition of
pouring water out the windows to wash away the old year and bring in the
new. Best to be a bit toward the center of the square.
There's another good reason to go now: This will be one of the last New
Year's holidays celebrated under the Castro regime. The U.S. embargo and TV
Marti will surely succeed in driving them out of power within five years,
Visible links 1. http://insightcuba.com/
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