Looking at the full image: Spanish teacher reflects on state of Cuba

Mrs.Schnautz (pictured above) stand in front of a wall with the words “Cuba” written on the wall in the city of Trinidad. A UNESCO World Heritage city. Picture courtesy of Ms. Schnautz

During the summer of 2016, Spanish teacher Ms. Liz Schnautz visited Cuba to explore the culture and traditions of the country.

“I feel like sometimes the media paints one picture of what Cuba is like, and getting to go there, and actually meet the people, and stay with them, and learn their stories first hand, I think is something you can’t learn from a textbook,” Spanish teacher Schnautz said.

After learning about Fidel Castro’s death Ms. Schnautz reflects back on her trip and how Castro’s death will affect Cuba in coming years.

“I think even after his death change is going to happen very, very slowly because things just move at a slower pace there,” Ms. Schnautz said.

As  president-elect, Donald J. Trump comes into office next year, the future relationship between Cuba and the United States is unknown considering the developments that occurred under the Obama administration.

“From what I’ve read, Trump would like to reverse some of the policies that Obama enacted. I don’t know if he wants to close the embassy but I think he wants to make it harder for us to interact,” Ms. Schnautz said. “He really would like to open up business opportunities and I think he’s asking Cuba to change quicker than they want to or quicker than they will.”

A typical classroom in the city of Trinidad. Picture courtesy of Ms. Schnautz

As the relationship between Cuba and United States changes, the economy of Cuba changes as well. Following the news of Fidel Castro’s death there is uncertainty in the country as to who will be the next in power of the island as Raúl Castro, Fidel’s brother, is currently in power.

“There are people within the communist party, I think, they sort of follow what Fidel and Raul set up and what they have done. They want to keep it going but I think there’s more of an open mind to change [the government].” Ms. Schnautz said.

Points of interest Ms. Schnautz brought up on Cuban economy were education, traveling, human rights, and healthcare. As the Cuban government changes, Ms. Schnautz sees these aspects of the economy as the most important to address as possibly changing or improving.

“They [Cubans] want to help each other out with the medical stuff and education. I think they like that part but maybe they’ll look differently at human rights and restrictions in terms of travel and things like that,” Ms. Schnautz said.

Typical Cuban meals – black beans and rice, plantains, and meat. Breakfast always included fresh tropical fruit like mango and pineapple. Picture courtesy of Ms. Schnautz

A subject that is certain is the growth of the tourism industry, that has flourished in the past 20 years. Following the dispansion on the Soviet Union, which was the main financial supporter of Cuba at the time. [1960-1991] “When they [Russia] fell apart, Cuba fell apart.” Ms. Schnautz said. During which time [1991] tourism became open in Cuba because it needed the money. The tourist industry has been successful but has created a division between the rich and the poor, those who are in the tourist industry and those who are not.

“Those people that rent out their homes, or that run restaurants make so [much] more money than people that don’t work in the tourist industry,” Ms. Schnautz said.

Castro’s idea of socialism was to create a society in which everybody was equal. Though the tourist industry has recreated a division between the rich and the poor in Cuban society.

“It was interesting for me to see people that have been educated formally, and then trained formally were not doing the jobs they were trained for because they could make more money doing something in the tourist industry,” Ms. Schnautz said.

“I would love to have students go visit, to experience for themselves, but the next best thing for me is to share my photos and my stories and all of that with them, like where we went, and the history we saw, and just the way people interact and all the music,” Ms. Schnautz said.

 

At a school in Trinidad a statue of Jose Marti with a painting of Che Guevara on a wall in the background. Picture courtesy of Ms. Schnautz

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