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"Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it"

Henry David Thoreau, Life without Principle

Cuba, the Pearl of the Antilles, has been romanticized through the poem of Jose Marti, the Cuban poet and independence leader, in the song, Guantanamera. Columbus called Cuba "the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen". His name for this land mass was, "Juana", after an heir to the Spanish throne. Although Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492, it took the circumnavigation in 1508 by Ocampo to prove Cuba was indeed an island.

And, what an island it is! For a moment, imagine you are hurling down a runway in Nassau, Cancun, Toronto, etc. (some licensed U.S. Cuba direct flights are available) and you close your eyes for a brief nap and when the Captain announces your descent into Jose Marti Airport in La Habana you awaken having traveled fifty-five years back in time. Well, that pretty much describes Cuba in 2002. Vintage cars, horse drawn carriages, cast iron lamp posts, are resplendent in the Cuban sunshine and breeze.

The Cuban authorities readily admit that a few days of "raining asphalt and fresh paint" would do wonders to the appearance of the country. Education and medical needs of the population have taken priority over infrastructure projects.

A new growth area for investors is tourism. Foreigners from Canada, Italy, Spain, and Mexico have pumped millions of dollars into joint ventures with Cuba in tourist destinations such as Old Habana, Varadero, etc. They are not being disappointed because about 2,000,000  tourists per year are choosing Cuba.

Vacation and business travel to Cuba for U.S. citizens is specifically banned by Congressional legislation except agricultural and medical sales may be made with Cuba under special legislation signed by President Clinton in October, 2000. A U.S. citizen  or group which wants to legally travel to Cuba needs to either obtain a Treasury license or participate in a "fully hosted" tour...the latter being difficult to prove in 2002. Probably about 40% of U.S. citizens who go to Cuba make the trip illegally through Canada, the Bahamas or Mexico. Cuba AIDS Project has a license from U.S.Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control for humanitarian trips to Cuba Cuba AIDS Project

Cuba is about the size of England or Pennsylvania. It is semi-tropical and enjoys wonderful year around weather...only occasionally blemished by a Caribbean storm or hurricane. The flora and fauna of Cuba have been well documented. For instance, Cuba is the home of the World's smallest hummingbird, "the Bee Hummingbird". Preservation of "Natural Cuba" is the goal of organizations. The Cuban Underwater Biology Project is a project promoting awareness and education of underwater biology in Cuba as well as hyperbaric medicine.

Until the Revolution led by Fidel Castro, Cuba was a favorite place to visit, vacation and retire by U.S. citizens. There will be a day when again Cuba will be a retirement and vacation mecca. Cubans are friendly towards Americans and their greenbacks. Cuban immigration obligingly does not stamp any U.S. passports with a Cuban entry mark. A nondescript water mark is usually affixed to page 16. Travelers to Cuba from the United States should be aware that U.S. bank issued credit cards and American Express are not valid in Cuba. Cash is king! The King of Kings is the U.S. dollar.

The hot spots for future Cuban growth in tourism are Cayo Coco, Cayo Largo, Varadero, and, of course, Habana for its historical sites. Other lovely places to visit include Santiago de Cuba and Trinidad. To be honest, all of Cuba is beautiful. Drives through the countryside are rewarded with wonderful scenery around many corners.

Cuban housing is a problem for the population. Homes and commercial buildings appear to be the victims of what can be called a "reverse neutron bomb" in that the people and occupants are still alive but the real estate is not. NonCubans can not buy speculative real estate at this time The Cubans remember when much of the land was held by large landowners and foreigners prior to Revolution led by Fidel Castro. The Cuban government is amenable to joint venture possibilities in real estate and other business ventures. Once again, future investments in real estate is a certainty!

The cost of living in Cuba varies upon the location. If one is fluent in Spanish and adventuresome, then accomadations can be had in homes of local Cubans for U.S.$20 per night or so in La Habana. Dollar denominated stores offer the most variety of goods and services. Of course, you pay higher rates than if you are willing to go to the local farmer's market. If you change dollars to pesos (officially, 1 peso equals 1 dollar, unofficially, 24 pesos equal 1 dollar), then you can live very inexpensively!!!

Health care is excellent and the Cubans will treat you compassionately. The costs are nominal for tourists and visitors. One probably would have to pay for the services rendered, then collect from one's insurance for reimbursement. There are exceptions to this general rule.

Potential U.S. investors for a New Cuba are numerous. There is, for example, a for profit corporation venture capital fund available in the United States today. It is CUBAQUEST® through a Texas corporation. Direct and indirect investments in Cuba or trade with Cuba is currently also illegal. The parent company of CUBAQUEST® is compiling the Cuban Information Network database for future opportunities in Cuba.

Cuba remains a "forbidden fruit" that can be sampled freely if one has the proper reasons or exemptions to travel there. It is the largest island in the Caribbean and is only 90 miles from Key West. Cuba will someday be the Caribbean "Hong Kong". Hang on to your daiquiris...I mean, hats!!!

Copyright© 1994-2015 Byron L. Barksdale

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