Cuba 1956 Before Castro - My Parents' Experience

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My parents' 1956 trip to Cuba happened quite by accident. They were going to New Orleans from their home in Fort Worth, Texas. Unfortunately, it rained all the way and continued to rain when they reached New Orleans. They decided to drive on to Keywest, Florida, where it was raining as well.

They learned they could take a 50-minute flight on a DC-3 prop-plane to Havana, Cuba, and that's just what they did, landing at the Jos Mart International Airport. They would stay three nights at the old Hotel Colina, right by the University of Havana.

They took a day tour with a driver named Frank (my dad's memory is quite acute these 52 years later) and, while riding along in the car, my father noticed that the land was so fertile, the fenceposts along the road were actually sprouting. They also went to a cockfight, which was nothing new to Dad, his having seen them in his youth in Fort Worth.

They went to the Castillo del Morro, a huge fortress that dates back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition. There they were shown torture contraptions, one of which was a metal cage in the shape of a human body, in which the unfortunate person was placed, only to have the thing closed upon him, two metal shafts gouging out his eyes. The waters surrounding the fortress were infested with sharks, and there was a chute, down which prisoners were forced to slide to their deaths in the waters below.

This was Cuba in the pre-revolution Batista days, and there was evidence of much poverty. Dad said you couldn't take twenty paces without being propositioned, but these women were doing what they felt they had to do in order to survive. Even in those days before the trade embargo, Dad noticed how well kept the automobiles were, because people just could not afford to buy another one; today they are well kept because the trade restrictions prevent them from getting more cars from the USA.

That was pretty much all my dad had to tell me about his and my mother's trip to Cuba. Then I asked him if there was anything in particular he didn't like about the place. "Not a thing," he said.

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