Arriving in Cuba was a slight culture shock to say the least. After stepping off of the plane, the first thing I noticed was the crumbling infrastructure. I knew it wouldn’t be in great shape, but I didn’t expect to see a literal hole in ground in the airport. I was amazed at how the crumbling building were still in use. I know that it isn’t an option for many Cubans to make the repairs needed to the infrastructure, and their ability to live around it and still get usage from the crumbling buildings was inspiring.
Walking around Old Havana on the first day made me realize exactly how connected to American culture Cuba is. I thought they would be completely cut off, but there was evidence of American influence in many places we saw. I was shocked while eating lunch at D’Next on the first day that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show was playing on the television- something that promotes consumerism. I was also surprised at how many people spoke English and how common it was in Havana. I didn’t have a difficult time at all striking up conversation with Cubans who were just as eager to learn about my culture as I was theirs.
I thought that maybe the Cubans appreciated American culture until we visited the Museo de Revolucion. I was shocked by the outwardly hateful caricatures of Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., and George W. Bush. All three former presidents were ridiculed, and a swastika was drawn onto George W. Bush. I was shocked at how this was an actual display in a museum run by the government.
After seeing the exhibit, I struck up conversation with the young woman working in the gift shop about the images. She told me it’s the governments who have a problem with each other, and that the Cuban and American people would “get along pretty well” if it weren’t for the governments. This statement really stuck out to me, and I kept it in the back of my mind throughout the trip as I interacted with more Cubans.