Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Havana vs Cancun

Cuba's Bahia de Cabañas
I reached Cancun yesterday after a trip to Cuba. I had a long layover in Cancun, so I left the airport and went downtown. While passing by some of the gleaming resorts in Cancun's hotel zone, I couldn't help but think just how little development has taken place in Havana. I had that on my mind as I wandered through a market catering to tourists. A woman asked, "Want to see my shop?"

"Sure," I said, and I followed the woman to her stall, stocked with the usual t-shirts, Aztec calendars and Mexican silver. I had only been there for a minute or so and the woman pretended to inhale a cigarette and asked, "Hey, do you smoke? Want to buy some weed?" I told her I no, but that didn't stop her. "How about coke?" she asked. "Don't you want some coke?" I just shook my head and got out of there.

Cuba's Port of Mariel
No place is perfect. Cancun has stunning wealth and development, but drugs and violence, too. Havana's economy is in terrible shape, but it's still pretty rare to hear someone offering drugs to tourists.

Mexico's Caribbean coastline


Muchacho Enfermo said...

A buddy of mine last year decided to go to Cancun... At some point he ordered pizza and when the delivery boy got to his hotel room he tried to sell my buddy coke... saying that the pizza he had ordered (toppings and stuff) were supposedly code for: a tourist wants coke...

I'll just stick to travelling to Cuba. Thank you very much.

Thiago Carvalho said...

Dear Tracey,
I've been to Havana last year and stayed there for four days. During that time, I was offered marijuana three times. Twice by men and one time by a young woman. They would start a conversation and after a few minutes ask me if I wanted to buy pot. None of them insisted. I soon as I told I wasn't interested they went away. But yet, three times in four days... anyway, maybe it was bad luck, or maybe I look like somebody who likes to smoke... :)

But to be quite honest, that didn't change my impressions of Cuba. I loved the country and will definately come back, that didn't bother me at all. Actually, I felt very safe while in Havana. Me and my girlfriend would take long walks through the city late at night, and we didn't have any trouble.

And by the way, congratulations for the blog. You are an excellent writer and the pics are amazing.

alongthemalecon said...

Thiago - Thanks for the comment. That's interesting people tried to sell you pot in Havana. I recall there is a special prison unit or block for foreigners arrested on drug and other charges in Cuba. I don't remember the details. I know the Cuban gov't has said it takes a tough stance against drugs.
Muchacho Enfermo - Pizza delivery and coke. That's wild. A taxi driver in Cancun told me that some sellers tip off the cops after they make a drug sale. The cops go after the buyer, take everything he has and split the proceeds with the drug seller. Quite a business.

Thiago Carvalho said...

Well, even if I were a pot smoker I would never dare to buy or smoke it in Havana. I can only imagine what happens to anyone who gets caught doing it there...

alongthemalecon said...

yeah, I agree