WORLDPOST

Tourist Apartheid Alive and Well in Cuba: No Citizens Allowed Here

02/04/2009 07:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Endophobia

The rejection of what is different, of the foreign, looks equally bad as discrimination and humiliation. The strange "endophobia" displayed in excluding that which is similar, in denying equal rights to your own compatriots, is common on the streets of this Island. Among the most intense impressions the city of Santiago de Cuba left me with is precisely that, of not being able to enjoy the same services as foreign tourists.

Located at one corner of Cespedes park is a modern office of the telecommunications company ETESCA where you can send a fax or connect to the Internet. However, this latter is possible only if you can prove you weren't born in Cuba or have lived, for many years, hundreds of kilometers from this country. I knew this when I went in and saw the questioning faces of the staffers while they looked at my clothes, to see if I was a foreigner or a simple national. As I am skilled in the art of slipping through the narrowest cracks, I spoke a ridiculous hodgepodge of English and German so they sold me a card to access the web.

From there I sent the post of last Sunday and watched how they refused the Internet connection to several Cubans who entered. Offering no arguments, with a simple "access is only for tourists," they prevented my fellow citizens from sitting at the idle computers at the end of the room. One, particularly upset, protested. He said something like, "this is a lack of respect," and I, not able to continue faking that I was German, made a small correction: "This is another lack of respect, one more in an already long list." A minute later I was asked to leave the premises. I'd already managed to leave my text in this wide open space, where no one requires me to show my passport