Throwback Thursday: Back to the Cuba
Great Scott! Any Back to the Future fan is excited to be living in our modern time. Although we don’t have any (real) hover boards, legitimate power laced Nikes or self-drying clothes, we do have a Cubs team that is vying to make a run for the World Series (can you say Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta?) and a way to travel back to a date before November 12, 1955… well, kind of.
That second part might be a stretch (and actually, let’s be honest, so is the Cubs actually winning the World Series), but this year Americans have the opportunity to see (somewhat) what the world looked like 50 years ago in the form of traveling to Cuba.
I know what you’re thinking: this is heavy, Doc.
Now that the United States and Cuba have resumed diplomatic relations and the White House has loosened travel restrictions, taking a trip to the island that sits a mere 90 miles off the U.S. Coast is conceivable for the first time in half a century. And according to several travel websites, now is the time for Americans to visit, as the country is not yet ‘Americanized.’ The embargo lift is inevitable and American businesses are already looking to break into the Cuban market.
If you don’t have the capital for international travel right now or don’t meet one of the stipulations for traveling to Cuba (or even if you just don’t want to bother with getting your vaccinations), Our Space is featuring some #TBT-worthy occurrences and items you just might stumble upon in Cuba.*
The rumors are true—just like in the past—Cuba offers visitors basically no access to the Internet (at least no access that’s reliable and worth the astronomical price). In truth, only 5% of Cubans have Internet access, according to Freedom House. People that travel to Cuba will not have the ability to surf the web while waiting for a taxi (or to use an app to summon that taxi), check Facebook or Instagram that photo of them smoking their first Cuban cigar. Essentially the first #TBT happening un-TBT-able. #HEAVY
Of course, the dead giveaway that you’re in Cuba is the abundance of automobiles from the 1950’s (the only other explanation would be that you had a fresh stock of Plutonium and your DeLorean hit 88 MPH). Cubans have been able to purchase cars built after 1959 for a whopping two years now, but the old beaters (for lack of a better word and impulse to speak honestly), are not worth the ticket; the mark up is 400%. And since the average monthly income for a Cuban is $20 (yes, one Jackson), a new vehicle might not be a popular purchase. In fact, Buzzfeed reports that only 50 cars were sold in the first six months of the lifted ban on new cars. Meaning, classic cars are very much a thing.
One thing for sure, cars from the 1950s were built to last. Even Doc Brown noted that Biff’s Ford could cut through his DeLorean like sheet metal.
Let’s be blunt. Forget about smartphones (which aren’t really that helpful anyways since wifi is shoddy and spotty in Cuba), but generally cell phones are not really a big thing in Cuba, either. If you want to make a call in Cuba, you’ll need an international calling card and a public phone. Tourists can use the phones in their hotel room, but every travel blog on Cuba states doing so is pretty much a rip off.
With no Internet, no phones and no Google Maps, most teens would probably be unable to navigate themselves two blocks in Cuba. But remember, friends, Christopher Columbus found Cuba without even a map or certainty that he wouldn’t captain his boat off the side of the Earth… of course he also thought that land we know as Cuba was China, but that is besides the point. Since Internet and printing are expensive, handheld maps are very much a thing in Cuba. Name the last time you referred to your atlas to get yourself from point A to point B. In Cuba, that’s a thing.
Of course, as more flights are booked to Cuba, more American businesses open doors on the island and the likelihood grows of the trade embargo eventually coming to an end, Cuba will inevitably become more Americanized. But for now, tourists can enjoy traveling 90 miles to go back in time.