Psychologists and social scientists tell us that first impressions are very important and that we begin to form them quickly, perhaps as fast as five seconds after we first meet someone.
Late last March, I met Cuba.
My three days in the island nation—partly to be present for Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic visit and partly to see the work of Caritas Cubana that is supported by Catholic Relief Services—left me with some very strong first impressions.
Of course, I realize that a three day trip can never make one an expert or hardly give a full picture, especially of something subtle and complex. Three days nevertheless can be full of first impressions, and that certainly was my experience in Cuba.
There can hardly be a more beautiful sight than looking out on the turquoise water of Havana Harbor to the city’s skyline. And nothing is more refreshing than the Carribean breezes that soothe the heat of the day.
The marvelous renovations and reconstructions in old Havana, funded primarily by Unesco, stand in stark contrast to adjacent delapidated, deteriorated structures. Fabulous architecture, unkept and uncared for, crumbles like sand castles swept by the incoming tide.
The demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s caused great collateral damage in Cuba. With Soviet subsidies gone, so much fell into disrepair, so many became desperate.
Ubiquitous billboards remind you that society needs socialism, that socialism is the answer to all hopes and concerns. ¡Mas Socialismo! ¡Socialismo hoy, mañana, y siempre!
Yet, socialism has left so many on the margins of society in Cuba. Socialism has led to the control of peoples' lives, restricted their freedoms and caused people to seek a better life elsewhere.