Nowadays both Lenin and Lennon are commemorated in statue in Havana. It’s perhaps not surprising; after all, music and politics are synonymous with Cuba and its famous capital. Cuba may be one of the last bastions of Communism, but Castro’s twilight years have seen the Caribbean island adopt a more friendly face after its long, lonely years as a Cold War warrior.
he country that once almost pitched the world into atomic conflict is now happy to accept tourist dollars. These days Che Guevara, the poster boy of the Revolution, is as much a photogenic salesman for Caribbean beach holidays and Havana city breaks as countercultural icon.
Ever since “Buena Vista Social Club” and its spinoffs launched Cuban artists into the mainstream, the island has also reaped the rewards of its rich musical heritage with groups such as Buena Fe among its most successful exports.
Narrowly separated from the mainland U.S. by the Florida Straits, Cuba was an American obsession long before the 1959 Revolution. Theodore Roosevelt once led an invading army across the island, Hemingway set up home there and the mob once ran the gambling trade.
Despite a half-century of animosity and isolation the obsession remains mutual, as the lovingly preserved 1950s American cars — all now powered by Russian engines — and Cubans’ love affair with baseball bear testament. Political uncertainty still clouds the future — with the main question being what happens when Fidel goes?
For now though, Habaneros seems happy to bask in the socialist sunshine to a soundtrack of salsa, bolero and rumba.