Back from Homeland (II)

Posted: October 14, 2012 by jennroig in Articles, Chronicles, English, Miscellaneous, Travels
Tags: , , , ,

This is Varadero:

(cc) jennroig

Yes, it’s the same kind of postcard-image that people from cold weathers have from tropical beaches. And yes, it feels exactly the way it looks. It screams to your senses: Welcome to Paradise!

Varadero is, without any hesitation, the most famous beach in Cuba. Insiders can tell you it’s possible to find more affordable spots, better coasts, more transparent waters, even places almost untouched by civilization or pollution, like the King’s Gardens Cays (Cayería Jardines del Rey) on the northern side of Ciego de Avila where I was back in the early 2000s.

Still, Varadero remains the queen in the social imagination of Cubans. There’s practically no middle class individual who doesn’t dream to spend some days there during vacations. Cubans were banned from Varadero’s hotels, and every hotel in fact, for long years, but that prohibition was lifted in 2008 and ever since Cubans who can manage to afford it spend at least some days in those resorts.

If you are a tourist, it will be hard not to fall under the spell of beautiful sunsets.

View from our Bella Costa room

Or you can be astonished by this kind of rainy vision.

“un palo de agua”

You could rent a “katamarán” and go to swim with fishes. My aunt defined it as really therapeutic.

my mom, my aunt, and me

This time I spent there five nights and six days, with my mom and my aunt. We stayed at a resort hotel named Bella Costa. This hotel was built around 10 or 11 years ago, I was a teenager when I visited it for the first time, not to stay because it was prohibited, but for reason it was allowed for us to get in the pool and play there. I had fun. It was a good day that I treasured as memory, and that’s why I asked my mom to book it when she mentioned it among other options, even fancier ones.

So, it was my second time in Varadero as an actual tourist, as a guest in a hotel, at least that I can remember, not as one occasional visitor to spend the day, or a guest in a private house we are supposed to “visit” but we are really renting. The first time was in 2009, before I left Cuba to start my masters in Europe. But that time my mom covered the expenses, with the money my aunt sends us from US. So, this was actually the first time I was there as an adult who could afford the price of the experience. Cheers to that!

Then, I was a Cuban tourist, but I was different from my mom or the rest of Cubans who still live in the island. I live in Chile, which means I no longer hold any resident-rights in my homeland. I was also different from the real foreign tourists, because I could recognize some sights and had knowledge of some secrets, codes, stories, causes… The kind of information that helps make sense of the big puzzle that Varadero can be.

That something most of tourists never get to grasp about Varadero, especially those who come to the peninsula with an all-included package and never leave the hotel and go just to the trips that are part of the schedule. They miss the chance to find out the details. And the Devil is in the details.

If you, foreign tourist, dare to go out by yourself, speaking Spanish but also English, Italian, French and even German, you’ll find someone who can tell you a couple of secrets, as long as you’ll be patient enough as to earn his or her trust while sharing a beer  or a shot of rum. Something I’ve learnt outside is that at odds my expectations, Cubans offer their trust soon enough to strangers… in comparison to people from other cultures

If you do that, then you’ll start grasping some amazing details, pieces of information that most likely won’t make any sense to your ear. Yes, be prepared. You won’t find logic in most of the tales, you won’t understand practically nothing. So take my advice: do not interrupt with questions, just listen and try to remember as much as you humanly can, and then later try to look for some answers.

Among the things you may, or may not, learn, it’s that Varadero is full of university graduates who work as cheffs, drivers, maintenance, bartenders… I met a pool cleaner in the hotel who graduated from university as a PE teacher.

Another thing residents from Varadero could tell you it’s how they cannot, because they are not allowed, to repair their houses in spite of the damage left by hurricanes and time. The number of locals that see themselves forced to move out of the peninsula to build or buy houses elsewhere keeps growing every year. Where their houses were a new hotel is likely to be found, or some comfortable “cabaña”.

There’s also another funny detail. Private residents in Varadero are not allowed to offer bedrooms for rent. However, there’s no other single spot in Cuba where tourists could find more rooms for renting, at least proportionally. People risk fines and more serious sanctions because the money is good, even if they ask prices way cheaper than hotels. And that’s the thing, hotels owners don’t like the local competition, so people can’t rent as they could normally do in other parts of the country. There might be more reasons, but reason(s) tend to sneak away in Cuba.

There was something new this year. Local gossip says there’s a marina under construction, that will be state-of-the-art equipped to receive boats from the US. People is afraid of US tourists, they say if these guys come there won’t be place for Cubans, because Cubans tourists can’t compete with such amount of money and wealth.

In the meantime, Varadero remains in the social nostalgia of those who can’t afford it, but I guess people from all over the world could recognize themselves in that sentence. It’s no news to anyone that everyplace you could find similar tales.

  1. Noemí says:

    que bonito escrito, me encantó al igual que esa linda playa que creo es la mejor del mundo.

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