S E C T I O N
Community S TO R I E S A B O U T P E O P L E A N D E V E N T S I N T H E C O M M U N I T Y
SEPTEMBER 26, 2012
‘Cuba is what it is’ By Marie Wagner Krenz
hese were our Cuban About the author: Marie Krenz guide’s first words as we is a freelance writer from Orinda arrived at the Jose Marti who spends weekends at her family home in Woodside. As a airport in Havana. She ushered former Spanish teacher, she was our “People to People” cultural especially pleased to travel in tour to the so-called V.I.P. Room, Cuba. “We entered Cuba with the where the bar was laden with blessing of the U.S. government,” snacks, rum and beer, but the she says. “We were not allowed to ladies’ room was unusable. take home cigars or rum or any of After an unexplained delay, those good things that the Cubans when everyone seemed in charge would have been delighted to sell and no one was, we escaped to a to us. This would have violated the luxurious bus and drove to our embargo.” hotel, a sharp contrast to the decaying structures of Havana’s poor. When I asked if the cost wedding rings. He demanded of paint was prohibitive, our to know about restitution. guide replied that people had The diplomat replied vaguely only limited resources and feed- that this was being discussed, ing their families took prece- but that he had never heard dence over paintabout rings being ing their houses. taken. He also Available food N DESTINATIONS said that each was inexpensive country had a lot but rationed. to offer the other if they would The Cuban people were warm only sit down to discuss their and welcoming. They seemed differences. delighted to have Americans visit Our guide admitted that there and blamed their problems on is a lot wrong in Cuba, its ineffiU.S. government policies, not us. ciency and bureaucracy, but that On our first afternoon, we no matter how bad things are attended an obligatory meeting now, it was far worse before the with a diplomat who spoke on revolution. Her grandmother the Cuban-U.S. problems. Of had to walk two miles for water course, we heard the party line and had no health care whatsobut had to concede that they had ever. Now 95 percent of Cubans a few points on their side, too. are educated, and every area has One tour member, a Miami a medical clinic. attorney, had a great deal to After that first day we gave say about the Cubans who f led ourselves over to the joy of being during the revolution and were tourists. We were taken to a cigar stripped of all their properties factory in lush, tropical Pinar and possessions, even their del Rio and then to a tobacco
Marie Krenz, left, and sister-in-law Marie Jo Wagner wait by a classic car in Cuba that they rode in on their way to dinner. “The Cuban people were warm and welcoming,” said Ms. Krenz said.
plantation whose owner, Benito, was handsome enough to be a Hollywood recruit. Two of my new lady-friends smoked cigars with him in the drying sheds. I was more interested in his homestead, where chickens wandered freely while fighting cocks watched from cages. Guavas and avocados lined the barnyard, and laundry flapped on the line. We were taken to presentations of hip-hop and rumba, to concerts and art galleries, and to the residences of Ernest
Hemmingway. One evening we went to an out-of-doors night club to see a fabulous song-anddance show that went on until midnight, which was too long for me. Modern cars traveled the streets of Havana, but the most prized vehicles were U.S. Chevrolets of the 1950s. Proud owners kept them painted and in repair, and our group had the pleasure of riding to dinner in five or six beauties. One friend chose a place in the back seat of a convertible, giving the Queen
Firefighters to flip flapjacks for benefit breakfast Menlo Park firefighters will demonstrate their cooking skills from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at Fire Station No. 1, 300 Middlefield Road in Menlo Park, at the annual pancake breakfast to benefit the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation. The Menlo Park Fire Protection District, the Junior league of Palo Alto/Mid Peninsula, and the Stanford Park Hotel are teaming up for the 12th year to benefit the foundation, which provides programs for burn survivors in California.