Having heard so much debate about socialism, I decided to visit the most unrepentant socialist country I could, which is why I wrote this to you from the center of Havana, Cuba.
It’s not easy to get here legally by the way. The U.S. government insists that Americans take an expensive chartered flight in an unmarked plane from Miami, and be part of a cultural exchange, which means you can’t just sip mojitos on the beach, you must hold pre-arranged meetings with various cultural groups. Which is fine because it’s kept us sober and helped us understand that even though most Cubans live in conditions no American would tolerate – except maybe on a camping trip — Cuba is not some kind of prison.
We got into a debate with an artist who makes the equivalent of $30 a month on his state salary – he knows his country is poor.
“Yes, we know that. But it’s going to be better. Yes we know,” he said.
Yes, life is tough here, Cubans will tell you, but at least we are all educated, we all get health care, we all get a food ration and you can be happy.
Said another Cuban, “I am happy to be here and know that my kids are at their school safe. That is another kind of happiness.”
It’s not just about having a lot of stuff. Although it now turns out that socialism DOES have room for private enterprise.
The government has ruled that Cubans can rent out rooms, open restaurants, drive tourists around in a spotless 1960 Buick for a fee, which means the economy should improve. But it also means that little by little, some Cubans are going to be more equal than others.