Give me all inclusive Varadero. Forget Chinese Panda TV´s, Rice cookers and Electric Fans


Nelson from Miami sums it all up “they used to need money for Chinese Panda TV´s, Rice cookers and Electric Fans, now it’s all inclusive stays in Cayo Santa Maria”


For those receiving remittances, this year’s trend in Cuba is weekends in all inclusive hotels and stays at mid level resorts across the island. Cuban´s seem not to mind that the latest fashion accessory costs their whole years salary for just three nights. Packages available from local Infotur agencies recently sprouting up all around the island tout three or four nights “all inclusive” in tourist spots such as Cayo Santa Maria or Varadero for 180 CUC or, just over a whole year’s income based upon Cuba´s average monthly salary of 19USD per month.


Despite this, resorts are brimming with Cuban families getting their first taste of how the other side lives since the cash strapped government lifted the ban on Cuban residents being allowed to visit tourist installations which had been in place since the early nineties.


For the family jumping onto the shabby looking 80´s built Viazul bus in Havana, destined for – All inclusive – Cayo Santa Maria, the elation was unmistakable, smiling faces abound with the emotional excitement bringing the odd tear. The fact that every person partaking in these newly permitted summer vacations has done so with money sent from their families abroad brings more questions than answers. It is obvious that Cuban´s abroad feel they “must” send money to loved ones in Cuba, an obligation somehow inbuilt into Cuban psyche since time began. Regularly, Cuban´s in the US quiz one another on “how much are you sending now” and “his latest method of sending more money”. But, the fact is that Cuban´s abroad, with many economic problems of their own and rising unemployment, are finding it increasingly difficult to send money to family. It’s called the “wonderland sensation”, Michael Rodriguez from Boca Raton said “For family who live in Cuba they tend to believe that we live in Wonderland and the only way of getting more money is having family abroad and that by simply living in the US you automatically become rich enough to send lots of money”. This “wonderland” sensation is what brings Cuban´s in Cuba to make requests to family members abroad that initially encompass basic essentials but this year is verging on the exotic. This is compounded by the fact the Cuban´s in the US are feeling the pinch themselves; many are staying home this summer because a vacation, however short, is out of the question. It is therefore ironic and very difficult to explain to their families in the US that they´re sending money so that their families in Cuba can go on all inclusive vacations, however inexpensive they may be. It’s a question of logic for many Cuban Americans, as Nelson states “we were OK with some extra money for essentials but… All inclusive vacations….”


There is also the issue of the second irony – Government agencies brokering $200 three day vacations to Cuban´s under the guise of “turismo nacional”, right in their neighborhoods, brings with it questionable ethics. Much like opening a Rolex store in Compton, Los Angeles, there seems to be no economical logic for doing so other than those based upon the ability of Cuban residents to persuade family abroad to send the money. The kid in a candy store adage springing immediately to mind, one would question for how long these types of pseudo humanitarian requirements will continue to be financed by family abroad. The moral tight rope between helping family “just get by” and “financing superfluous needs” appears this year to have been breached.


As any law enforcement officer knows, making people want what they could never afford can be rather dangerous. Possibly this is all marketing on the governments behalf though. Make the people want what they cannot afford then introduce sweeping changes and allow Cuban´s to undertake self employment and begin making money of their own? Could the promotion of vacations costing one years salary for just three nights be the first step in a new strategy to actually let Cuban´s make that type of money in a month? We´ll soon see and in the meantime “viva el turismo nacional!”

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