There are corners of the world were westernisation hasn’t left its indelible mark. Havana in Cuba is a prime example. This communist city has been at odds politically with its close neighbour the United States since Castro came to power in 1957 and has suffered a US trade embargo since 1961. For Cubans unable to reap the benefits of trade therefore with its near neighbour, living there has always been a case of make do and mend.
However, what Cuba and Havana in particular are left with is a city frozen in time. Visitors to Cuba will either adore the crumbling Spanish colonialism of its streets and houses or they will hate it. Some would call it neglect, others could call it conservation. While American developers look greedily on waiting for opportunities to move in, the purists amongst us fear that the character of Havana will be lost as soon as US trade embargoes disappear. Already other countries such as Korea and China are eagerly waiting to replace the antique Pontiacs and Fords that have become a trademark of Havana’s streets.
Tourists can buy Cuban antiques but there is no free trade in Cuba and any pieces of antique furniture for example would be sold through government stores. Coupled with this, exports of these items, particularly works of art, are heavily monitored by the government. With Castro’s retirement last year, many in the west hoped that trade restrictions would begin to fade away. However communism still remains solid in Cuba and the wholesale plunder of Cuban antiquities by the west may just have to wait.
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