For everyone talking about Cuba after Fidel Castro’s long overdue death.
For every white American news outlet and reporter (Buzzfeed, Michael Moore and even Anthony Bourdain) who wanted to paint Cuba as a Communist utopia with free school, free healthcare and therefore trivialize the countless hardships faced by real Cubans who can’t leave the island.
I’ve heard stories of my fiance’s grandfather whose legs rotted after being tortured for months in a pit of raw sewage for being a loan shark, my own grandfather who was a prisoner of war and was a Cuban refugee in the 80s who brought his two little kids and wife to America on a boat full of violent prisoners and the mentally ill, Castro’s own advisor of 17 years who was thrown into a pit of cockroaches for asking to resign (because he knew he’d be killed when his term was over). Castro and Che Guevara weren’t socialist pioneers, they were serial killers. Che isn’t a public figure who’s okay to wear on a fucking t-shirt because communism is a good idea to you, but this is the reason why so many Cuban-Americans are terrified of socialism and there isn’t a single American who should blame them.
Fidel was a twisted, almost king-like dictator who didn’t give a shit about his people, and his death doesn’t mean much when his legacy is still in place and our country is so much worse than it was just twenty years ago. Don’t say shit if you don’t know, if you haven’t been there. Please.
If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.
The Story: Newly elected President Trump has decided he prefers his apartment in New York to that ramshackle shanty in Washington that’s already had over 40 previous owners. His need to stay home, as well as all of his kids and grandkids, means that millions will be spent on security to make sure we don’t lose him in traffic on the way to some kind of war room meeting, financial summit, or secret rendezvous with Kanye.
2011’s Reaction: Firstly, if you said “President Trump” to anyone back in 2011, they would have both laughed in your face for being stupid and spit in your eye for being stupider. Obviously Donald Trump would never be elected president of the United States. He wouldn’t be elected trustee of the local school board.
To be fair, if you’d said “President Trump” in, say, October of 2016, you would have gotten the same reaction. But the bigger issue here is the million-dollar babysitting gig New York just got trying to watch Trump, his kids, and all his assorted hairpieces. Why the hell would a millionaire president and his adult children need to stay in their solid gold hotel, anyway? The White House has secret JFK sex tunnels and the bedroom Lincoln made his hat in or something.
Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.
“I’m happiest experiencing food in the most purely emotional way. And it’s true of most of my chef friends as well. When it’s, like, street food or a one-chef, one-dish operation, or somebody who’s just really, really good at one or two or three things that they’ve been doing for a very long time, that’s very reflective of their ethnicity or their culture or their nationality — those are the things that just make me happy.”
Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.