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Havana Cuba Today

Havana was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. It served as a springboard for the Spanish conquest of the Americas, becoming a stopping point for Spanish galleons returning to Spain. Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of capital in 1607. Walls and forts were built to protect the city.

Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado and the newer suburban districts. The city extends mostly westward and southward from the bay, which is entered through a narrow inlet and which divides into three main harbors: Marimelena, Guanabacoa and Antares. The Almendares River traverses the city from south to north, entering the Straits of Florida a few miles west of the bay.

Over the years I have written several posts about Cuba. Since my first visit in 2018 many things have changed within myself and in Cuba as well. I first did a presentation at the Arte Chef School in Havana in 2019, Chef Eddie Fernandez has been after me to return for a Master Chef's presentation since that time...I finally made it back last week. The biggest change in myself since my last visit to Havana over 4 years ago, sobriety. I was kind of a wold cat back then, now I'm a sober wild cat!

Now onto the situation in Cuba today. The pandemic has seriously damaged the tourism trade, with a reduction of almost 50% pre 2019. And these numbers are continue to decline. The question is why? Difficult question to answer, with many different variables to consider. In my opinion it's partly a generational issue. The folks that still travel to Cuba are aging, and there numbers are declining. To be honest, I never would have considered Cuba as a destination, until i was advised by my agent to give it a try. Not being much of a RESORT guy, it didn't seem very appealing to me. Despite this, I usually start off at a good resort to get a feel for a new country. I'll be honest, the resorts in Cuba are at best, OK. The service is generally good, the food is terrible and the amenities and activities are like most tropical destinations. Being a food and culture guy, i had to get OFF GRID! So after 3 weeks at the Melis Antilles in Varadara, it was time to move on. And now in 2024 this is how I travel in Cuba. over the years i have made many Cuban friends, which has been beneficial in navigating the very strange economic developments in the past few years. With the decline in tourism, the government has introduced policies to try and capture the dollars coming into the country outside of resort activities. But there best efforts have done nothing but push the black market for dollars, food and private rental homes further underground. Air B&B is growing like crazy, with family members abroad in the US and other countries renting there homes at very reasonable prices. The latest and perhaps worst hit to Cuba, is the fuel crisis. Cuba's entire grid is powered by petroleum, and there is a huge shortage resulting in black outs in some areas up to 16 hours a day! Naturally the primary tourist areas like Havana, the capital are less affected by this. However if you are adventurous like myself and tend to navigate towards less travelled paths, you will experience the grief of power black outs.

Here are a few images from Cuba this last trip!

Cheers, and have a great May 24th weekend! I'll be back Wednesday with more Culinary and Hospitality material!

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