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Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, full of colour and music everywhere you go. It is well known for rum, cigars, Castro and Che. It is one of the last remaining truly communist countries, and has suffered under United States government sanctions since 1959. There are no flights connecting with the US and very little trade, leading to quirky side-effects such as the continued prevalence of American cars predating the embargo. In recent years things have begun to look brighter for the people of Cuba, but it remains one of only two countries where Coca-Cola is not officially sold, along with North Korea

We visited Cuba in October 1999, to find that our hotel had been damaged by a recent hurricane, so we stayed at the adjacent hotel "El Viejo y el Mar" at Marina Hemmingway. I realised the following year that old Havana's architecture is very much like Miami's South Beach, but with decades of neglect. Unfortunately as a recalcitrant teenager at the time, I had neither the means nor the appreciation to take decent photos, but this does give me another excuse to return someday soon.

Havana city centre

This is the centre of La Havana, taken from the steps of their Capitol Building, which was built to resemble the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.

Plaza de la Revolucion still sports the portrait of Che Guevara in the background, on the Ministry of the Interior. Here the rallies take place and Fidel Castro would address the crowds. This particular image of Che is world famous, appearing on t-shirts and the walls of student flats the world over.

Plaza de la Revolucion and Che

Mural de la Prehistoria, Vinales

The Mural del la Prehistoria was painted by students at the behest of Castro, on a rock face at Vinales to the west of Havana. Although colourful it doesn't necessarily have much artistic merit. Vinales is a tropical jungle area, and there were dozens of eagles soaring around. We also went on a boat trip through a cave, and drank the juice straight out of coconuts split by local vendors.

Since the US trade embargo in 1959, Cuba found that its supply of cars rapidly dried up, and they had to make do with what they already had. That coupled with the price of imported Russian and European vehicles, means that Cuba still sports a huge fleet of pre-1960s American cars, largely decrepit and powered by Lada engines, but some gold dust can be found too.

Cuban cars

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