CAA Manitoba Fall 2018 - Page 48

Santiago, we learn how large the city looms in Cuban history. It figured prominently in the country’s three wars of independence against Spain. And it was here that Fidel Castro launched his Cuban Revolution. It’s also where he chose to be buried. We visit Castro’s unpretentious grave in the city’s spectacular Santa Ifigenia Cemetery; later we journey to his birthplace in the rural town of Biran. Seemingly endless sugarcane fields surround the sprawling plantation where Castro grew up in relative luxury. Not many foreigners visit, but it’s a popular pilgrimage for Cubans and a fascinating place to learn more about the man who shaped modern Cuba. “We can travel from the place where Fidel was born to the place he was buried in under two hours,” observes Eddy Lorente, our resourceful 29-year- old guide, “but to tell his life story would take much longer than that.” During our time with him, Lorente is happy to answer all questions about daily life in Cuba. He explains how the food rationing system works, and how people are paid mostly in local pesos while goods and services aimed at foreign tourists are priced in convertible pesos—which are 25 times more valuable, putting them out of reach for most Cubans. While the portrait he paints of island life sounds like one of daily struggle, Lorente remains resolutely proud of his country, its history and its people. Revolutionary propaganda 48 Fall 2018 cAA MaNITOBa Tropical landscaping and colonial architecture; the walk to school in Santiago (left) l ater, while touring