Muses on Cuba: Nearshoring, revolution, and life
I have done fieldwork in Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica for IT Enabled Services site selection projects, so when an opportunity to visit Cuba came along, I jumped. Unfortunately, my trip did not qualify under the professional meetings category that allows Americans to visit Cuba, so I entered under the more restrictive people-to-people educational exchange category.
To even be considered as a nearshoring location, Cuba would need to greatly improve its internet access, U.S. banks would need approval to conduct business with Cuba, and suitable facilities would need to be newly constructed. The following anecdote reflects on obstacles beyond that:
A French company is constructing a new luxury hotel in Cuba. Rather than employ Cuban construction workers, who earn less than $25 per month (a highly skilled doctor might earn $80 per month), the company imported Indian workers making 70 times as much. The reason in conventional thinking was that building supplies are in very short supply in Cuba, and with Cuban workers much of those imported supplies for the project would walk off the site. This is obviously a sensitive issue for the Cuban government, which claims the Indian workers are there to train their local counterparts.
The main economic activity observable was privately owned bars and restaurants that were present everywhere in Old Havana spilling out to the cobblestone streets with outdoor seating. One of Cuba's major exports and foreign exchange earners are its doctors which it sends to countries around the world.
I had read much of Havana's magnificent malecon or waterfront promenade and the homes of the rich which lined it. But as I trudged down it, 70 years after the revolution, I passed one after another crumbling building, vacant and uninhabitable. A few just now were being renovated as low income apartment housing. Also noticeable in the middle of a working day was the large number of people, many working age males, sitting along the curbs and stoops, and mostly staring at cell phones.
Years ago in the travelogue I penned, "Cape to Cairo: An Overland Adventure" (available in the Kindle bookstore), I noted that while the African population of Zimbabwe, nee Rhodesia, was the most economically well off and educated of Africa under colonial rule, they might still feel more content and have more dignity under rule of their own. I really couldn't tell if a similar phenomenon was in play here; I guess most of the population wasn't born when Battista ruled. Or carrying this hypothesis forward - does it somehow explain the current risings of anti-globalization sentiment?