Cuba's Premier Resort, Behind the Shiny Postcards

Exclusive to Huffington Post.


On a piece of land that enters the sea, Varadero gives the impression of wanting to travel to another country, to somewhere distant and different. The narrow peninsula displays its luxury tourist hotels with their "all inclusive" wristbands. The buses go from one side to the other, unloading suitcases and passengers along the elongated geography of the best beach in Cuba. Some will stay -- visiting only there -- for two weeks and board the plane to go home, thinking the rest of the island is repetition of coconut, tanning cream, and sand.


At the entrance to this tourist area, a bridge over the canal marks the border with the rest of the province. The sharp eyes of the police detect the cars driven by nationals and to them they ask the reason for their journey while evaluating whether to let them pass. If the authorities suspect they are doing business in the illegal sale of tobacco, sex or rum, they will make them turn around and go back the way they came. But the principal control lies not so much in letting people in, but in letting them leave.

Varadero is the place par excellence for the diversion of state resources. Its employees load up with food and beverages stolen from the hotel tables. They hide the booty of their embezzlement under the seats of vehicles, under their clothes, in the false bottoms of some suitcase. The string of theft involves the cook and the driver in order to move the goods to a safe place. Everyone benefits later from the black market sale of these items. Occasionally, someone is discovered in this wheeling and dealing and legally reprimanded. But those postcard images of the beaches, shiny and unreal, hardly notice.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.