5 January 2011
Cuba - banned from landing
During last month's cruise, the good ship Discovery put into Santiago de Cuba for one day, and Havana for two - extended to three because incoming passengers were stranded at Heathrow and outgoing passengers could not depart.
Made no difference to me because I could not go ashore. Seems the European leftists' dream society has a blanket prohibition on anyone born in Cuba - even one such as I who was born there when it did not automatically make you a Cuban citizen - landing from a ship. No problem entering by plane, though. Go figure.
"Eternal Young Rebels" - forsooth.
However, immigration officials at Santiago and and Havana did interview me on board, in the latter case at 6am on the fourth day, delaying the ship's departure slightly, on specific orders from "higher up". I guess some commie jobsworth Googled me. Same questions both times.
Why were you born in Cuba? Because my mother was there at the time. (Smiles all round)
Why do you speak such fluent Spanish? Because I've spoken it as long as I have English. I was born and lived my first seven year here. (Wise nods)
Why don't you have a Cuban passport? Because both my parents were British and before 1959 Cuban law did not automatically confer citizenship on those born in Cuba. (Wise nods)
And so on. Perfectly amicable, even apologizing for their Consul General in London, who told me I would be able to go ashore.They did not explain the reason for the blanket prohibition, but I deduce that it is designed to criminalize Cuban exiles who might wish to cross the 90-mile Florida Strait in their pleasure craft and bring goodies to their relatives in the socialist paradise.
The Castro dictatorship was 52 years old on New Year's day. I never knew Havana as a kid, but was surprised how well I remembered Santiago.
As far as I could see the city had precisely one new large building in the last half-century. It was begun pre-1959 as a hotel, then converted to a maternity centre, apparently a very good one.
Some ship friends shared their pics with me. This one of the Havana Capitol is particularly poignant. That Ford was new the year of Batista's coup, the last time free elections were even scheduled in Cuba. And the Capitol has been an empty shell ever since.