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One time the playground of the West, Cuba still thrives with a multimillion-dollar travel industry. Although visitors from the rest of the world splurge on the finest hotel, cuisine, liquor, and the most expensive cigars anywhere, the quality of life of its citizens does not reflect this.
Due to its political structure and government, Cuba is unique in that it is not part of the capitalist machine. Or is it? Is it really, “All for the people?” as Communism seems to proclaim, or is it a government that exploits its citizens while offering nothing in return?
This lack of capitalism produces a two-fold effect. At the same time that it institutionalizes nationwide poverty, it fosters creativity. It is said that invention is born of necessity. This is most apparent in rural Cuba, where the living, breathing victims of Cuban-American politics find ways to circumvent their Communist economy. It would not be uncommon for the acquisition of one item to be the result of a sequence of many black market transactions. It would be far from unusual for a tobacco field worker to barter for cheese, or for local fishermen to swap lobsters for locally produced rum.
While this is the reality for all but the elite, many continue to hope for opportunities that the rest of the world has access to. Despite the crippling lack of autonomy suffered under Castro’s control, many Cubans are still very patriotic. After all, it is their beloved homeland even if they do not quite own it yet.