Cuba is definitely on my bucket list as I have heard it is a fascinating trip. I saw a tv special about environmental trips that will get you into the country, but as you point out they really do involve some type of educational goal.
For this year I guess dinner at Cuba's Cookin will have to suffice.
As I earlier mentioned in my post, my wife and I have travelled to Cuba a number of times as we are not affected by the US embargo due to our nationalities. If it is of interest, I am prepared to write up a "trip report"
The Cuba of today is NOT the Cuba of 4-5 years ago. It was mentioned in an previous post that the hotels have some catching up to do. That is somewhat true. A couple of things to bear in mind. Although the US embargo has affected Cuba, this has not stopped it from progressing in establishing partnerships and relations with other countries. Some of these have worked well for them For instance, the Cuban Govt is 50/50 partners with the Sol Melia hotel chain. The Cubans are employed by the Hotels while the management and oversight is from Sol. The architeceture of Hotels such as Sol Cayo Largo is magnificent. The lobby is one giant handpainted mural. All the bathrooms are European style and done in Spanish tile. They are equipped with Bidet, bath, shower, regular toilet etc. The rooms are decorated in a Mediterranean style with bright colours, airconditioning, openings to the balconies etc.
At dusk, fogging to keep mozzies down is done.
The entertainment provided by the resorts is fabulous.
For the hotel workers and entertainers, these are prized jobs. My friends who work at one of the hotels ( husband and wife) discussed what it is like to have one of these jobs. They are flown from there hometown area to the resort. They then work 20 days and return to their children for 10. While away, family members look after the children. These giuys work hard. The pay???.....15 Pesos per month each. ( In Cuba there are 2 currencies...The Convertible Peso which is the money privided to tourists when exchanging money, and the real Cuban Peso that foreigners cannot obtain and use, though it happens. There is a tremendous difference between the 2) While the incomes sound poor, one must remember that almost all living expenses are borne by the Govt.
Things are different there. If you love latin music, dance, old architecture and culture, Cuba is most interesting. Not so good....the food. And there is a reason for that which I will cover should I get interest in writing more.
The Cuban economy is changing in advance of relations normalizing. There are housing developments being built by Italian and Spanish consortiums and house prices are steep in these developments...$300000 and up. The older towns like Santa Maria with views over the deep water bay still have some great bargains, but I suspect they too will be gone in the coming years.
Cuba is interesting but not for all. There are still a number of real 3rd World issues there
Now we broach into the political area. As I mentioned, things are changing. I can send you links to these properties if you wish.
As of almost a year ago, Cubans can now buy and sell homes, own personal computers, they have their cars and so on. While a communist country, it is what I would term " mild and selective"
I do not want to become embroiled in a debate between the US Foreign Policy and Cuba, I would just mention that there are several publications dealing with th issue of restitution and maybe one day things will get sorted out.
Lisa, I think the best answer I can give you, as the ordinary guy in the street and without any interests there is the following.
Canada is heavily involved in mining and other activities. Italy in real estate development. Spain and South American countries in hospitality, Russia in certain economic relations and tourism and so on. I know foreign nationals who have purchased property and live there. (In fact a former Canadian political figure now lives there) The Cuban Govt is only too happy to see foreign funds flowing into the country.
Please make no mistake. I am under no illusion as to the problems that exist there with the system. Many young Cubans will sit and talk openly about what they dream will happen some day. Still, it is nice to sit at beaches without McDonalds, BurgerKings, DairyQueens etc. There is a unique feeling to being there.
It is however somewhat sad to see how some have aspirations that will never be met.
I hope this provides an answer to the question you asked.