Fellow Valle Verde Rotarian Tom Cooke presented the program for October 30, 2014 by showing slide pictures and providing commentary of a trip he and his wife, Melodye, took to Cuba this past summer.  They traveled by air from Miami to Havana, a 45 minute trip that extended to 5 hours due to plane trouble.
 
Tom pointed out that it was now permissible for US Citizens to travel to Cuba, provided a Cuban visa could be obtained and a diary is kept by the travelers.  A number of years ago this was not the case, when neither the US nor Cuba would allow US citizens to travel to Cuba.
 
The physical condition of the country reminded Tom and Melodye of a country stuck in the mid fifties.  Many automobiles from that era were noticed.  The country gets its gasoline and other petroleum products from Venezuela, a politically friendly country.
 
A limited variety of drinks are available  They have two kinds of beer, a drink similar to coke, and a rum based beverage which seemed to be the national drink.
 
In its early days, Cuba was home base to Ernest Hemingway for several years, during seven of which he rented a room in one of the Havana hotels.  Other notable entertainers and authors spent time in Cuba as well.
 
Castro nationalized the ownership of all real property when he took over the country in the 1950s.  After that the government allowed the buildings to deteriorate to their current condition.  A revitalization building project has been commenced and is in process, but there is still widespread dilapidation.
 
The government issues food rationing books to the population because of the scarcity of some foods.  There also exists a black market for food.
 
There is a very large cemetery with mausoleums and statuary in one special area of the cemetery.  Families are allowed to own burial plots, but the interesting thing is that bodies are only allowed to remain interred in the special area for a few years, after which they must be removed and new bodies are interred to take their places.
 
There are slavery plantations from the past, as well as the remains of several old fortresses constructed by the Spanish when they inhabited the land.