The past few weeks I spent backpacking through Cuba.
Although the backpacking experience was something new in and of itself, it was that I went to a socialist country that piques most people's interest.
The questions I've received afterwards range from "Is it beautiful?" to "Are people famished?" No, people aren't famished, and yes, it's beautiful, but not in the classical sense.
Most of Cuba is worn and tattered (except for the highly touristic spots), but it carries out its aged look with dignity and pride.
Propaganda is everywhere to be seen, capitalist amenities are hard to find (anytime I found Coca Cola I would shrill with glee, and then giggle at my capitalist vice), and people are overly friendly and are wont to spend an easy 20 minutes talking to the tourist stranger -about politics, culture, attractions, whatever (this makes me wonder how true it can possibly be that the police arrest anyone who blabs, because boy do people blab freely.)
It's a multicoloured country, and by this I'm referring to the people, the streets, the ideas -and the truths.
Alas! Keep in mind that anything I can tell you is from a tourist's perspective, that is, I always had cash in my pocket, people were often kind to me because I was the money-bearer, and I only visited tourist-friendly towns (usually the richest ones.)
All in all, I would say that Cuba isn't poor in the classical sense; its people are rich in culture and knowledge thanks to the great educational system, they are all healthy and fed and clothed, but they aren't rich in the classical Occidental way. You won't find expensive cars or fancy stores, for instance.
On the other hand, I was sort of estranged by a number of things I assumed that a socialist country would provide for free, and didn't: Housing, transportation, electricity. I couldn't believe people were supposed to pay for these basic rights, just as neoliberal Chileans do.
All in all, this is a country that has decided to have a different conception of prosperity. It has its many flaws, MANY flaws, but, in sum, it works pretty fine. In a number of ways, it works better than others. And whatever is to be its destiny, it should be up to the Cuban people to decide.