As Sally Potter travels around the world with 'YES'
she is keeping a diary exclusively for this web site
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El Norte: An Ill Wind?

Our Man In Havana

Breakfast at the Hotel Nacional

The Riviera

At the British Embassy

Soy Cuba

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The visit to Cuba begins on the Air Cubana flight from Nassau. There are no direct commercial flights to Havana now from the USA, so passing through the sunny Bahamas is the chosen route as we are coming from New York. The Cuban aeroplane is noticeably shabbier than its North American counterparts, and is extremely crowded; the buzz in the plane is that of emigrants returning for the holidays laden with boxes and packages; the huge suitcases wrapped in plastic that the poor travel with - full of consumer goods, and carefully chosen gifts - those that have been away have an obligation to return bearing plenty. It's a kind of proof of the rightness of the decision to leave.

Stuffed into the seatback in front of me is a copy of 'Grama International'; the Cuban broadsheet (which, incidentally, had the headline of 'A Transcendent YES', on our first research trip to Havana; of course it referred to a vote of confidence in Castro and not to the film; but the coincidence of the title was heartening and the newspaper is still pinned on my notice board as I write).

The issue of Granma in the aeroplane is mostly a report of the state of play of the Cuban economy and the social achievements of the last thirty years. Despite the sanctions, the descriptions of the hospitals, the schools, and the support and training of students from third world countries makes impressive reading; the list goes on and on, and the achievements described are qualitative ones for the society as a whole, not a list of profits and economic 'growth'.

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Havana Street

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Havana street

Text © Sally Potter. All pictures © Adventure Pictures unless otherwise indicated