Friendly Cuban Welcomes

Locals kept telling me, “We live in an open society. Wherever there’s an open door, you are welcome to enter.” And I found that to be the case. Some of my favorite hours in Havana were spent simply strolling down the streets, venturing into back lanes, and popping into courtyards, shops, schools, and bakeries…anything that was open.

Rick Steves and security guard

Photo: The Travelphile

Farmers market

Cuban school girls

Photo: The Travelphile

Cuba is very proud of its schools. They looked extremely ramshackle compared to American schools. But, unlike in neighboring countries, Cuban children are encouraged to get a solid education (it’s compulsory from ages 6 to 16, and free all the way through a Ph.D.). Families are not impoverished by having to pay for tuition, uniforms, and books. Exploring the city, you find many grade schools tucked into big building blocks in the urban core. They all seemed to be named for Revolutionary heroes, with a bust and memorial to each at the entrance. And the children — with their bright-red kerchiefs — seemed both enthusiastic about learning and excited to meet foreign travelers who drop in.

Rick Steves, family, and Cuban locals

Photo: The Travelphile

Even at midnight, if we happened into a grade school, the guards would jump at the opportunity to invite us in and show us around.


3 Replies to “Friendly Cuban Welcomes”

  1. Amazing educational achievement for such a poor country. What educated Cubans need are opportunities. Not unusual to have MDs and Registered Nurses working in tourist resort bars and restaurants. Rick, any evidence of medical tourism? U.S. would seem to be an ideal market for such services.

  2. The easiest way to identify a school in Cuba is to look for the bust of Jose Marti in the courtyard. We were told that Jose Marti is a much loved person in Cuba and in fact in Santiago de Cuba there is a huge memorial to him made of marble. He is a revolutionary that came along well before Castro, I think Micheal Moore’s film Sicko talked about medical treatments in Cuba – it is worth a view to see the differences between countries. one would hope that medical ‘toruism” will not displace medical care of Cubans themselves.

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