Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cuba: the land of what you can do when you don't have a choice

(This is a version of comments also posted on Facebook.)

I've just returned from Cuba. What an incredible place! The people are lovely, the scenery is beautiful; it's rundown, but on its way to improvement.

But the single thing that struck me most was what the Cubans have been able to do because they simply didn't have a choice. This became particularly clear to me when I went into an art gallery with some of the best modern Art I've ever seen.  Every piece of art used recycled material. And yet it was fine art; it wasn't just glued together pieces and parts.  And then I started thinking about the cars.

We've all heard about the old cars in Cuba. There are a variety of reasons for their presence. But key to them is that they still run. And often without the real original parts.

Why? Because there was no choice. If you are Cuban with an old car, which is the only car available, and you want it to run, you just have to figure something out.

That's pretty much the way the country is all over. The cars,  the art, the food. 

And, the Ebola crisis has brought to our attention the excellence of the Cuban healthcare system. Two important pieces of data. The first is that the system is excellent, very organized, and focuses as much as possible on prevention. That's because they don't have the money to cure things.

The second amazing thing is that many doctors in Cuba have a second job. Because they don't get paid much as a doctor. One psychiatrist that I met was acting as a maître d' in a restaurant to augment his income. But he loves medicine. It was just amazing.

This is a dramatic contrast to the world of the Silicon Valley; this is the land of plenty. And yet, sometimes we forget about what it's like to have to use ingenuity instead of resources.

I encourage everyone to visit Cuba soon. If the rapprochement between the US and Cuba happens, the country will zoom into modernity. And, it's very likely that some of this wonderful can-do culture will be impacted by that.

The same is probably true about Vietnam, China, and  a number of countries I haven't visited. But it was so present in Cuba that I couldn't overlook it.

Happy new year. All the best wishes.

Abigail Johnson


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Blogger Unknown said...

You're right that things are likely to change...photographers love it there because of the "frozen in time" feel to it...and the light and color! The cars are amazing.

10:21 AM  

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