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The Day That Castro Died

Sunday November 26th, Havana, Cuba

A Complicated Man

I found out that Fidel Castro died via email from a friend in Canada even though I was in Havana, in bed nursing a cold and the only television that I had in my garish apartment was the size of a box of cereal and I rarely turned it on.
It was not a surprise considering the man was 90 years old but he had loomed so large and invincible for so long that it felt like a let down in some ways. The immortal attributes that were so lavished on El Commandante for so damn long had become a joke that in turn became ingrained as a real part of the STORY that was Cuba.
I wasn’t sure what to do so I walked to the window and listened. In Cuba you can guage most situations from the sounds on the streets; the students parades shouting slogans, the fights below my terrace that never seemed to go anywhere except to disturb my nights, the honking of horns from pink and gold Classic convertibles breezing down the Malecon carrying VIP’s . That night there was a silence that has continued turning the entire city into one long Sunday.
It’s all about timing isn’t it? You meet the love of your life because you are in the same movie line as he or she is, or the flight you have to cancel due to a winter storm crashes into the North Sea.
Fidel Castros passing came as a soft exhalation rather than a guttural cry, because he was no longer in power. Ten years of his brother as President and the legend stayed strong but the presence grew wane. Time is a sly player and events rarely play out in reality as they do in anticipated imagination.
I always wanted to be here in my second home when this moment came. I thought the streets would throng with shouting and tears and fights and a show of government power but yesterday as I walked the streets from Vedado to Old Havana I encountered an unsettling pall, a silence all the more startling because the State issued a nine day ban on any and all music. This includes all bars, cabarets, restaurants and homes.
Never before have I been so aware of how prevalent the sounds of drums, voices crooning and guitars wove into the every day fabric of life in this city. The blaring of taxis radios, the trios shaking their maracas in the doorways of small pubs trying to lure you in with their seductive rhythms and the Afro Cuban ceremonies throbbing drums relaying secret messages even today in Modern Times.
Ashe, Ashe, the cry of the Santeria for luck and blessing.
It is nowhere to be heard.
Everyone is careful. The police are on the streets in Miramar, standing and watching. It is not wise to say too much but perhaps that is ok. Like any passing of an important person in ones world it is contemplation that is the perfect response.
As my taxi driver in his Jeep said, ‘Which president was perfect? Why criticize our president when they are all guilty of good and bad. “
Indeed, a 60 year reign, no less than a reign, thumbing his nose at the greatest power on earth and surviving with all the costs that entailed is not a small feat.
Illegal CNN tv is showing the parties in the streets of Little Havana, in Miami, where the Cuban immigrants gyrate and munch roast pork to celebrate the death of a man they consider to be a hated dictator. This is utterly distasteful to the Cubans. Even those who had issues and rebelled against the powers that be, carry a certain dignity and love for the higher ground that this country tried to emulate. It is insulting to them that those who did not live here for so long reduced the death of such a complicated man and such a long fight to a fiesta in the streets and a dance.
Cuba is anything but simple, despite the reputation of rum, sand and smiling, sensual people. Scratch the surface and one finds an educated population that has learned a thing or two about patience and tiny forms of resistance.
Call it survival but who does not learn to survive in whatever fish bowl we find ourselves in, swimming and fighting the currents. Or not.
The future is not clear. Nobody I spoke to is making any predictions but what good are predictions in todays world anyway. I would not have dreamt that a boorish, overweight millionaire could succeed to the White House of the Greatest Power on Earth. Never.
So we lay to rest a complicated man.
Jung said, ‘A big man casts a big shadow.’
El Jefe was cremated last night as he desired. His ashes will be scattered along the entire Island and he will be memorialized in Santiago de Cuba. Scattered to the wind, quietly landing on the soil where so much happened in his name and under his shadow.
And the streets of Havana will throb to the sounds of salsa, Trova and drums again.

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Cuban friends consider…After Castro, now what?


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It is quiet in the streets of Havana, the Day that Fidel Castro Died


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The Image of Che Guevarra , soon to be joined by Fidel?
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Ashe, Checkmate! Life Goes On

Cuba costumes like colourful flowers

Cuba! What can I say? The wild and wonderful magic that entrances visitors and drives me crazy at least 3 times a day. My gorgeous apartment above the crumbling streets of Central Havana is the perfect place to watch the moon rise above the Old Fort and the sun rise over the Havana Libre Hotel.
My clients from Australia left this morning happy and sad to go.
They managed to pluck a few notes with the locals and share music during their wanderings.
I woke up the other morning to the sounds of trumpets and shouting. Looked out to to a sea of colour and a parade milling below. It turns out it was National University Student day. Of course! Patriotic songs mixed with laughter and clowning until the heavens opened up and the rain scattered the emerald green and scarlet costumes like birds of paradise in a wind storm.
Lots more adventures to be had with Cuba4u.ca and with me here in the heart of this hidden island.
The apartment is also for rent for those of you who want a special get away in the real Havana.

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Beauty and colour mix in the street celebration of National Student Day in Cuba
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The streets of Havana fill with students celebrating International Student Day
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Colour fills the streets of Havana

Dancing the Hora in Cumanayagua

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IMG_0776 copyThe theatre company TEATRO DE LOS ELEMENTOS lives, creates and thrives on a pristine working farm nestled in the gentle foothills of The Escambray Mountains on the South side of Cuba. I had enjoyed workshops with the talented actors who call this paradise home, so when I was planning a tour for fifteen Israeli members of the dance company Ethnic Experience I thought a meeting of the two companies would make a strange and wonderful cultural exchange.


IMG_1084 copyI warned the Israelis that there would be few creature comforts but that the experience and interaction with the people would more than make up for the lack of air conditioning, even in July, the only month the Israelis were free to travel here.


As we rolled along the smooth highway from Havana towards Cienfuegos and the turnoff to Cumanayagua the Israelis danced and sang in the aisles, practicing their moves, bangles and ankle bracelets jangling, in anticipation of the show they would present when we arrived. High on a wave of music and anticipation we forgot all about the paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles that had led up to this moment. This promised to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both groups of artists: for the small Cuban community it would be a first taste of Israeli culture and music and for the Israelis it was an amazing opportunity to experience not just the talent but the life of some of Cuba’s best theatrical artists.


What could go wrong?


IMG_1686 copyThe bus pulled up to a patient row of smiling actors, who exploded with hugs and kisses as they welcomed the Israelis in typical Cuban fashion. The hills stretched out as far as the eye could see and the air was fresh with the scent of tropical blooms. It was idyllic—and very hot.


Lolo Castillo Torres, actor and member of Teatro Elemento, Jobero, Cuba.

Lolo Castillo Torres, actor and member of Teatro Elemento, Jobero, Cuba.

Israelis have a lot in common with Cubans. Both groups are gregarious, loud, and expressive, and although the countries they come from are small each has a big world presence. Nevertheless, as we set about allocating housing and getting everyone settled the language barrier kept me, and my hard working assistant Maria Rose, busy translating between the two groups.


Lolo, one of the actors in the Cuban troupe, lived in a Bohio, a traditional wooden farmhouse with a thatched roof and wood burning cook stove. It is a charming and practical home constructed so that the back door and front door align to allow the breeze to blow through. Convinced they were luckiest of their dance group to be assigned to sleep there I proudly led three women towards Lolo’s home. Some of the other housing was more comfortable, but this was the real thing, rustic but full of character and charm. Lolo met us on his porch with his typical wry smile, ushered us in and explained the lay of the land. There was no running water, for example, but there was a shower area behind a screen and plenty of fresh agua in buckets. It was perfect for hot weather—bathing al fresco without the cost of a high end spa. And, it had a postcard view.


As I explained the al fresco bathing arrangements the women looked increasingly anxious and a rush of Hebrew filled the air. My attempts to calm them were drowned out in the no-man’s-land between two languages. Finally I switched houses and the three women got their indoor shower. Everyone seemed relieved.

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Later that evening as we sat around Lolo’s dining table the girls walked in with heads hanging low and said something in Hebrew to Eilat, the leader. They were sorry for being so hasty. Now that they’d calmed down they wished they had stayed in the picturesque bohio, Cuban style! But no matter. Rested up, everyone began to relax and enjoy themselves.


The next three days passed in a warm haze of sharing theatre and music from opposite sides of the world. We drove up to El Nicho waterfalls with our Cuban compatriots where we swam in turquoise pools. We laughed together despite the language barrier. Our cultural exchange culminated under the thatched roof of the pavilion when Ethnic Experience gave a performance of Middle Eastern Dance and song for their Cuban hosts and the surrounding community. By the finale the audience was on its feet, dancing the hora and singing Hava Nagila. That this magical moment was the culmination of a lot of work made it all the more special. Two of my worlds came together in one perfect moment where East met South. Viva la hora. And for many of the Israelis travellers it really was the most memorable part of a never-to-be forgotten trip.


This article was originally published in visitcuba.com

Walking The Fidel Trail

“I was excited to finally find myself standing at the bottom of the trail that would lead up to the actual encampment where Fidel Castro lived in hiding while gathering his troops in preparation for the fight 47 years ago.”

“Maestra mountain range rises like an enormous green caterpillar at the eastern edge of Cuba and the road to [Fidel’s] storied hideout is riddled with potholes….”

These excerpts from “Walking The Fidel Trail”. New article by Gabriella Klein. Published April 1st. 2016  Read the full article: visitcuba.com

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Gabriella Klein


Havana’s Golden Beaches

Half an hour from the hustle of Havana the golden beaches of Playa de L’Éste beckon. If you would like to experience the real Cuba with someone who loves and knows this magical island please contact me. Meanwhile, Maria and I will drink a mojito and soak up the rays. Salud!


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Havana, the visual feast.

From the second largest cemetery in the world to the plaza of the revolution, Havana is a visual feast for every taste. Experience real Cuba. Book your adventure with Cuba4U. Contact us for more about our customize Cuba tours.