Mar 16, 2020  By Ruth Oratz MD

Cuba is the jewel of the Caribbean, the largest island in the sea. First inhabited by tribes of indigenous peoples from the Americas, Cuba was claimed by Christopher Columbus for the Spanish crown in 1492. In the following centuries, Spanish colonization brought European tastes and sensibilities to the New World. Thousands of black slaves imported from Africa carried with them, and have preserved ever since, deep roots in
their tribal traditions, beliefs, music, and dance. Immigrants from other European nations and North America contributed to the businesses of sugar, rum, and, in the 20th century, entertainment, fashion, and the high life. Jews and others from the Ottoman Empire added their own unique customs to the mix. This resulted in the truly colorful conglomeration of peoples, cultures, languages, religious practices, costumes, and cuisine that is Cuba today.


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1 Comment

In 1977 I was invited to the re-opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC after President Carter returned the building to the Cuban government for use. What a blow-out party!

Now, I lead a photo trip to Cuba every February. As you’ve been you know it is one of the most photogenic places on the planet. I managed to find goggles for my 50mm Dual Range lens at one of the little flea markets in Havana! It was $80 (after a bit of polite haggling) which is four times the average Cuban’s monthly income but both the seller and I parted happy as could be after the transaction.

The Jewish Cuban community, while not facing any particular prejudices today, is trying to maintain in the face of the emigration of its young. The last count (by a leader of the community) is far smaller than the ‘official’ estimate and, as there is no rabbi on the island, people in need of one join together and bring one from Venezuela when there is a critical mass of work for him. There was, last I knew, still one kosher butcher but he was quite old and without a replacement.

Still, hope springs eternal and it is a fabulous place to visit, particularly with a camera.

Many Thanks for your post.

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