Note: this in the first in a series of posts about our trip to Cuba; please see our other posts about the trip.
We arrived back from Cuba last Friday. What a whirlwind trip!
Even though Cuba is only a 45 minute flight from Miami, it has developed in a very different direction from that of the United States. To help give us perspective, we brought along some experts: David (Davy) Thomforde and Kathryn Hunter have worked on development projects all over the world for many years.
Davy is a Occupational Therapist by training and has worked extensively with Handicap International. Kathryn has a degree in forestry and her work has ranged from Rain Forest conservation in Madagascar to Peace Corps volunteer management in Paraguay. For their experience in developing countries such as Sierra Leone, Uganda, Paraguay, and Madagascar—and for their fluent spanish—we were thrilled to have them join us.
Cuba is a highly developed country with some developing world challenges. It offers all of its citizens free housing and electricity, but it suffers from deteriorating infrastructure and few opportunities for economic growth.
One way for people to spark economic growth is through private enterprise—but starting a new business in Cuba is not a simple matter. Since Cuba’s government controls most enterprises, starting a private business requires a specific license. These licenses can be oddly specific: a person needs a different license to open a barber shop vs. a hairdresser, and there is no official license for a movie theater. Despite these hurdles, many private enterprises are springing up all over Cuba. People find a way to do what they love.
To learn more, we visited many different businesses to learn from many Cubans about their livelihoods. We’ll delve into what we learned from them in future posts.