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Cuban cigar being the world's standard for excellence. Before
imposing the embargo on Cuba, President Kennedy supposedly
purchased hundreds of Cuban cigars. Sadly, I doubt he was able to
enjoy too many of them.

Visit to Camaquey and Fidel's Ashes
Our first destination, Camaquey, is in the middle of the
eastern end of the country. It has a population of around 400,000.
Throughout the City, there were beautiful parks or squares which
fill with people every night. Some are simply enjoying the evening
with their families, but most are taking advantage of the hot spot
on the square and are feverishly using their cell phones. It is
surreal to be in a town that could be right out of the 19th century
with everyone using cell phones.
Camaquey has few cars or trucks. People ride bikes or bike
pulled carts or horse drawn carts. The streets consist of beautifully
restored buildings that are hundreds of years old, next to buildings
that haven't seen a coat of paint probably in the past hundred
years. This was true not just in Camaquey, but throughout the
Country. Even in Havana you see the same thing. Breathtakingly
beautiful buildings will occupy a couple of blocks, only to be
followed by streets that resemble 1945 Berlin. One day it rained
in Havana while we were there. Our guide told us that buildings

would collapse that day because of the rain. She was right,
multiple buildings did, in fact, fall down that day resulting in
injuries and/or deaths.
In Camaquey we visited artist and pottery studios and the En
Dedans Dance Company to see them rehearse their modern dance
routines. Being that we were there while the Country was in
mourning, we were told that they could not dance while we were
there. Yet shortly after arriving, we noted the director going to the
floor to ceiling windows and closing the huge wooden shutters.
Soon, the music was turned on, albeit softly, and the dance
company started to perform. They explained that they weren't
afraid of the police, but didn't want their neighbors thinking that
they were being disrespectful of Fidel. We weren't sure if that was
the truth, but appreciated their gesture and their performance. In
talking to the dancers and the director after the performance, we
were told that talented children are picked out by the Country's
dance directors at a young age and begin training. Fidel, it seems,
was very interested in promoting the arts in Cuba.
Fidel's body was cremated in Havana and his ashes were then
taken in a funeral procession from Havana all the way to Santiago.
His funeral route retraced, in reverse, the same towns that he
went through in the revolutionary battles, when he overthrew
Batista in 1959. While we were in Camaquey, his ashes came
through the City and we went to the memorial service in the
City's Revolutionary Square that night. Thousands of people filled
the square and listened to patriotic songs and speeches honoring
Castro. Since Fidel had not been President for many years before
his death, we were curious to learn the young peoples' opinion of
Fidel. Those we spoke to viewed him as the symbol of Cuban
pride and nationalism. He made them proud to be Cubans and
was credited with transforming their Country from being a pawn
of Spain and/or the United States into a socialist nation that had
its own identity. I didn't get into debates with them about being a
pawn of the Soviet Union and how Cuba almost became ground
zero for World War III during the Cuban Missel Crisis.
It is also my impression that had Fidel still been President
over the past decade, the Country would not have opened relations
with the United States, or moved toward a capitalist society.
He remained strongly anti-US until his death. Even though
Cuba's economy was not self-sustaining under Fidel, I doubt he
would have been willing to admit that his economic plan had
failed. Clearly, Raul Castro is more open to moving Cuba on the
capitalist path and deepening ties with the United States.

Highway with More Rice than Cars
When we left Camaquey, we were on the east west highway
that goes from one end of Cuba to the other. I stood in the
middle of the highway with no cars in sight. Many times we saw
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