For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with the idea of visiting Cuba.
Of course, with all of the travel restrictions and trade embargoes in place traveling to Cuba is not really an option for me at the moment.
The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.
I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.
In the end we passed without incident and as Cuba got smaller and smaller on the horizon behind us I was even more convinced than ever that I wanted to one day step foot on that mysterious rock.
Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.
Instead, to me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smokey rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.
I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.
I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.
I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.
I want to tour a cigar factory and see people using the same hand rolling techniques that their great great great grandfathers used.
I want to do all of these things and more in Cuba but sadly under the current rules of travel that is not an option for me at the moment.
Our friends north of the border in Canada can come and go as they please to Havana but for those with America stamped on the cover page of their passports it is a different story.
Of course, I certainly hope to get to visit Cuba without having to become a Canadian citizen first and feel that I will get a chance in my lifetime to do so.
While I have many things on my list to see when I do get to Cuba, there was another item that I heard about that also seems worth checking out on the island 90 miles away from Florida.
I am of course talking about Pancho the pet pelican.
There was a story in USA Today about Pancho, a pelican that wanders the streets of Havana with his owner who nursed him back to health.
Now, before I saw the story I had never even considered the idea of having a pelican as a pet.
I am a huge fan of pelicans and I love to watch them fly and do their pelican thing but never once in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a pelican would follow me around without me having to carry a fish to lure him.
So while conditions in Cuba and the surrounding political system may not be the best for individual freedoms I think that a country that allows its citizens to have pet pelicans cannot be all bad.
Okay, let me clarify before I get angry cards and letters that I am in no way endorsing communism as a preferred form of government over democracy. I am merely stating that I think it is pretty cool that there are people in Cuba with pet pelicans regardless of what form of government they live under.
When I lived in Florida I had many friends from Cuba who told me first hand of the atrocities that they had witnessed under Fidel Castro so I know that it is not all pet pelicans and sunshine.
These atrocities are one of the reasons why so many people continue to flee the island for a chance at a better life filled with more freedoms and other opportunities that they cannot have in Cuba.
But from a pure coolness factor of walking around with a pet pelican one has to give the nod to Havana.
And while we are giving people nods and shout outs one cannot forget Diana Nyad who at age 64 recently became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, hitting dry land on a Key West beach nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years.
So I guess it was reading about that historic swim as well as Pancho that had me longing once more for a visit to Cuba. Of course, another reason for my renewed quest is the fact that I have been craving some really good Cuban food lately.
And it should not really shock anyone that Texas is not really a hotbed of Cuban Cuisine so the choices here are certainly limited.
So, I will continue to plan things to see and do in Cuba while I wait for the travel restrictions to be lifted and for the opportunity to present itself for me to be free to move about the country.
After all, why should the Canadians have all of the fun, eh?
Now if you’ll excuse me all of this talk about Cuban food has made me a bit hungry.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson