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This post considers our activities on Day 4 Afternoon--We Get to Feel Like Cubans—The Saratoga Hotel Refuses to Let Me and My U.S: Students Enter their Lobby—The Cuban People are Owed an Apology.
Well, that “front door miraculously swings open” only for those deemed worthy—it was slammed in my face and that of a small group of U.S. graduate students who had sought to enter the lobby to have drinks at their bar. We had been touring that sector of Havana; I was dressed in clothing that looked enough like those of locals to raise no suspicion that I was flamboyantly foreign (the preferred state, it seems, for easy identification for purposes of protecting the membrane within which the tourist sector may be managed and their money harvested). We had just finished a tour of the Asociación Cultural Yoruba de Cuba, the meeting place of Afro-Cuban religious organizations. Ironically, the Yoruba Center sits directly next to the physical and abstract spaces that the Hotel Saratoga occupies, but which the Hotel appears unwilling to share. The Center provides a meeting place religious practitioners of what Westerners understand as Santería, a cluster of religious traditions rooted in the Yoruba based religions of Africa include many Afro-Cubans and poor people among their members and those who tend to utilize the facilities. None of these, in retrospect, would appear to be permitted to enjoy the delights of the Hotel Saratoga.
“The Hotel is closed.”
And as I walked away I thought—I have not been insulted because I was treated like a local and my students were dismissed as unworthy of reaping the fruits of foreign wealth. The Hotel Saratoga's excellence appears to have been built on an embrace of class tourism--creating luxury perches from which richj foreigners might observe the local flora and fauna. Indeed, pictures from the web site appear unintentionally to underline that distance cultivated between locals and those lodged within the protective membrane that is the hotel.
The Cuban people were insulted by this act of betrayal of the deepest ideals of the Revolution and its ideas. It is to them that the staff and management of the Hotel Saratoga owe the most profound apology. And it on behalf of the Hotel Saratoga—because they are likely indifferent to their obligations to their own people—it is on behalf of the people from other states insulated from these insults-- that I offer my own apology to the Cuban people for the betrayal by this organ of the state of the most fundamental responsibilities that they owe to the Revolution, to the state and to the socialist project that their wok is meant to advance.