I spent my first morning in Havana chatting – fairly candidly – with my adopted Cuban mother, Carmela. Despite her youthful appearance I estimate she’s around 70 years old. Naturally, I didn’t ask. She has lived under the two political regimes of the past century – the so-called democratic Batiste government and the current communist Castro one. And although far from singing the praises of the current regime – ‘we always struggle’ -, it’s fair to say that her life and prospects were immeasurably improved once Fidel Castro seized power.
As a black woman she remembers a type of apartheid where as a child ‘ I wasn’t allowed to go to the park because I was a negro’.
Neither were blacks allowed to go to university or study under Batista. Without a doubt the one positive former leader Castro brought to Cuba was education for all. The problem now, however, is how to incentivise Cubans to apply that knowledge without any real monetary reward. It appears there’s more sitting around than industrious labour. That, so far, is my superficial view.