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01/05/14 - Havana Times - Speeding Up Changes in Eastern Cuba 

Alberto N Jones

The Bucanero Tavern in Santiago de Cuba.  Photo: Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES - What has sadly become a ritual in Cuba are the yearly mea
culpa of the heads of the nation's most important institutions for failing
to fulfill the meager projections they had set for themselves.

Some spokespeople of these institutions have created a language of their
own, trying to convince an increasingly skeptical population, who year
after year, have been deprived of the goods and services they were charged
to provide.

Food is in short supply, the sugar industry is dwindling, drinking water is
scarce and of poor quality, sewage frequently flows untreated above ground,
public transportation is a disaster and housing is in critical disrepair.

Numerous barely passable roads and highways are a major cause of accidents,
healthcare service has deteriorated with the resurgence of transmissible
diseases, tarnishing the nation's health care image and failing schools are
putting the nation's future at risk.

President Raul Castro has called to stop blaming the embargo for our
failures, but it is still a fashionable introduction for every malady,
trying to justify the unjustifiable. Triumphalism and secrecy has been
denounced but remains entrenched in many hearts and minds.

The first major entity to come out acknowledging its shortcoming was the
Ministry of Tourism, shedding tears for failing to reach its meager 2%
growth, which would have landed 3,000,000 tourists in Cuba.

On the road to Baracoa. Photo: Lazaro Gonzalez

The City of Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba were founded by Diego Velazquez in
1511 and 1514 respectively and Saint Augustine, Florida, was founded by
Pedro Menendez in 1565.  Baracoa and Saint Augustine each have today
approximately 60,000 inhabitants, while Santiago de Cuba is close to half a
million.  All three cities are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Saint Augustine is 10% de size of Santiago de Cuba and 20% of its historic,
cultural, scenic and natural beauty, but it attracts five million tourists
a year.

Some people argue that the development of this unique Spanish colonial city
of the United States East Coast is due to its strategic location 120 miles
away from Orlando and its 50 million annual visitors.

Santiago de Cuba on the other hand, is a mere 2-3 hours flying time from
all of its Central America and Caribbean neighbors.

The crux of the matter is that while St. Augustine has developed a wide and
intensive promotion of its community around the nation and abroad, the
former province of Oriente has never had any promotion or tried to sell
itself in the region.

Cuban Radio and TV stations have no programming geared to the region and
its tourist fair, business, cultural, religious, coastal trade and
professional exchanges, are virtually non-existent in this entire region.

This year, the Ministry of Tourism displayed its most aggressive promotion
of Cuba as the Caribbean choice destination in central-eastern Europe, the
Middle East, Japan and South America.

An apparent pre-conceived prejudice towards the purchasing power of the
Caribbean has led leaders of the tourist and other entities in Cuba, to
underestimate and disregard the region.

Ignoring southeastern Cuba's unique geography, distinct culture, history,
traditions and hospitality, have forsaken an enormous unexploited
economical potential, by those decrying the lack of tourists arrivals.

Southeastern Cuba has the least developed tourist infrastructure in the
nation, with one quasi "5 star hotel", a partially functioning "4 star
Hotel" and others referred to as "3 stars." The large Hotel Venus and once
most prestigious Hotel Imperial are closed and crumbling for over 40 years.

Panoramic view of Baracoa. Photo: Lazaro Gonzalez

No one believes that a lack of attractions is the culprit for Oriente
underdevelopment, having the Rough Riders landing site in Daiquiri and
Siboney, San Juan Hills, the Morro Castle and the sunken wreckage of the
Spanish fleet, General Antonio Maceo's home and Square, the Bacardi Museum,
Jose Marti Mausoleum,  Santa Efigenia cemetery, the Gran Piedra Coffee
ruins, the Moncada Garrison, the Basilica of the Virgin of Charity, the
site of the Protest of Baragua and Loma del Gato, where General Jose Maceo
fell in combat.

The English Speaking Caribbean and Haitian community have Goat Hill in
Guantanamo, Caimanera, overlooking the Guantanamo Naval Base, the Alexander
Humbolt Biophere natural reserve and Baracoa.

Oriente also includes the sites of the beginning of Cuba's two Wars of
Independence, the city where national anthem was written, the home of the
Father of the Cuban Nation, the site where slaves were freed, the Granma
landing and the Sierra Maestra.  One of Cuba's best beaches in
Guardalavaca, Christopher Columbus landing site in Bariay and Cuba's
largest archeological site in Banes suffice.

All these are more than enough to attract an additional million tourists to
Cuba.

Why is it then, that the Ministry of Tourism and other major entities have
not engaged their counterparts in the Caribbean and Central America, to
promote tourism joint ventures, health care tourism, retirement and
eldercare services for people in dire need of a beautiful, safe, cost
effective living conditions, capable of generating tens of millions of
dollars and thousands of jobs?


Original Source / Fuente Original: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=101024


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