From Gerry: Cuba’s Not Ready for Prime Time
Cuba is Not What I Thought it Would Be. But, it is Not Ready for Prime Time Either.
It’s late at night.
In the middle of Havana.
A side street behind a boutique hotel- privately run.
A crumbling wall.
Flickering lights illuminating shadows moment by moment.
A dozen kids – girls and boys – ages 10-16.
Lounging in the dark. Animated. Laughing.
Talking softly then loudly among themselves.
Tightly grouped. Shifting foot to foot as one together.
In another city a reason to fear.
Here in Havana:
Phones out. Held face high.
In the cone of an internet hotspot connection.
Baseball scores. Games memorized play by play
I learned a lot during my trip do Cuba as part of the first organized Human Resources delegation from the United States. There is still an embargo. The connection to the Internet is a single cable from Cuba to Venezuela. The state owns just about everything and yet, a few years ago, Cubans were finally allowed to start their own businesses…out of their home. That loosened up during the last year and hundreds of small businesses- especially private restaurants exploded in number all over Havana to serve a hungry, growing tourist marketplace.
5 million tourists in 2015. 200,000 were Americans. The life of the average Cuban is changing rapidly in this country of 11 million whose Capital is more often than not thought to be Miami.
One small business, a barber on one random Havana block, a CDR* to be praised, expanded his business to benefit the community to include teaching deaf students how to be hair stylists, developing a gallery for a community of artists, converting unused space for children to play and underwriting several cafes and a place for senior citizens to come and get three squares (rice and beans) every day. Socialism at is best.
Our White Rabbit post of my trip to Cuba with a delegation of HR and TA leaders notwithstanding, it will be years before this land is a source of candidates in the US or at home (although call centers, recruiters, health care specialists and a few other possibilities are highly likely if we and the natives’ cousins on the mainland ever fully normalize. As a site for American-style retail sales? Maybe never. Cubans have little to no disposable income at the moment but many have an attitude about work (a right to a job and a duty to do it well) that is attractive on several levels, a facility for language, globally competitive educational levels, unrivaled health care knowledge and skills and a land that easily challenge Florida, Mexico and Costa Rica for retirement bound Americans.