After reading this uninformed dribble of an op-ed piece my latest return from Cuba, I was moved to send a letter to the editor. Sadly I had to limit it to 200 words but here is the full version:

Letter to the Editor Miami Hearld
Re: If you had a “great time” in Cuba, then you really didn’t see Cuba.

I fear you mistakenly labeled this piece as an op-ed, when perhaps it would have been better placed in the comic section. I believe that is where most papers publish their fiction pieces aimed at feeding uninformed minds for a laugh.

Alex Lyda contends that visitors to the island cannot possibly enjoy the real Cuba, citing abject poverty amongst other inane claims. While I don’t live in Cuba full-time, I spend a significant part of my life there, living in a Cuban household, eating, drinking and conversing with friends and family. So perhaps I can assure Mr. Lyda, that despite his claims, not once has any of that occurred in a cage.

There are so many things to refute about this propaganda piece aimed to appease the withering uninformed and again right.-wing Cuban population of Miami-Dade County, that I will simply apply some world perspective to his reasoning. According to Mr. Lyda, no one could ever possibly enjoy a country mired in poverty, so you may want to skip that trip to Machu Picchu, Bali, the Taj Mahal and Fiji, as well as 137 other countries out of the 195 existing today. This manner of selecting destinations is probably a good explanation for his narrow-minded world view.

Mr. Lyda likens the the country’s citizens to caged animals, and bravo for the hyperbolic picture you paint, sir, but perhaps you may have missed the fact the United States leads the world in number of incarcerated citizens. Maybe you missed that on your first-world global tour.

Yes, there are many problems that face the tiny island nation. My first visit in 1998, when I accompanied my father on his first trip back in nearly 40 years, occurred shortly after I lived though a coup d’etat in Ecuador. I was prepared to see families living in squalor, without drinking water or access to medical care much like my year in Quito. Instead I found minimalist but tidy homes, access to healthcare for all citizens and visitors, and an aging but functional infrastructure. It was like a paradise by comparison, yet we don’t grant automatic residency to the tortoises of the Galapagos islands.

Cuba is a developing nation (with first world indicators,) and that development has been slow not only due to the fact that the majority of Cubans lived in poverty prior to the revolution, but also due to the blockade neatly labeled an “embargo” imposed by the USA for the last 56 years and bolstered by the Helms-Burton Act. We have cut off access to food, medicine, and essential goods to a people for over half a century. The people of Cuba aren’t sad; they are proud—not of their government, but of their ability to sustain and survive what has been aptly labeled by international organizations as a “war on health” through 11 U.S. presidential administrations. The UN and World Health Organization have repeatedly called for an end to this failed policy which has done nothing to effect change on the governmental level, but has played a large role in reducing import of needed goods and medicine to the residents of the island. I am not sure I know of another country that could withstand that type of assault.

Mr. Lyda, I invite you to read some unbiased material and perhaps look further than the regulars who stand outside of the coffee window at Versailles on Calle Ocho for accurate information. Yesterday I sat with a friend on her balcony overlooking Havana, and as I type this I realize the words she spoke were meant just for you; “We are poor. We struggle, and we want more, but we aren’t going hungry, and we love our country…just not everything about it.” So if you want to see the real Cuba, perhaps you should remove the filter you are peering through and connect with the people. Until you are ready to do so, please do us all a favor and stick to Disney World.

Miriam Pearson-Martinez