Are there any countries that can act as a shining beacon for the rest of the world? Well, no… nowhere is perfect, and it’s more a case of cherry picking items that a country seems to be doing better than the rest of the world. When it comes to the island paradise that is Cuba, there are 6 things that other countries might want to sit up and pay attention to.
- Aged Care
Like many countries in the world, Cuba is dealing with an aging population that is not being countered with a sufficiently high birth rate. After the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro implemented sweeping social reforms that affected day-to-day life in Cuba, and the end result is a country with a life expectancy that is 20 years greater than it was prior to the revolution. There’s a sense of inclusion in Cuban society, and this is where the Cuban attitudes towards the elderly become evident. There are numerous community centres throughout Cuba, all offering services to the elderly, whether it’s exercise, socialising, occupational therapy, or arts and crafts. It’s different to simply putting old people in a home, allowing them to lead a structured and supported life while still maintaining their independence.
Knowledge is power is a lesson that Cuba seems to have taken to heart. While still a financially disadvantaged country in many respects, you need to have an education in Cuba if you really want to make anything of yourself. The country boasts a literacy rate of 99.7% and in the interest of achieving a well-rounded education, Cuban children receive up to 8 hours of musical education each week as part of their standard curriculum (which is up to 3600 hours throughout their 12 years of schooling).
This is a fairly recent development, since it used to be next to impossible to operate a private business in Cuba. In the last couple of decades, the stringent regulations were significantly eased, and so locals and visitors alike no longer need to depend on services offered by the state (who had minimal interest in being innovative or competitive). This difference is most obvious in the entertainment and hospitality sectors, with a multitude of new, exciting private restaurants (paladares), bars, and boutique accommodation houses (casa particulares) opening. It’s not as though other countries can match this new growth, but it’s hard to beat Cuba in terms of the vibrancy of these new operations.
- Health Care
A large number of Cubans opt to take their education much further, and as a result, the country has the best doctor to patient ratio in the world. There is one doctor for every 155 patients. To compare, the USA has one doctor for every 396 patients. Health services are operated by the state, and the only private hospitals cater almost exclusively to foreign patients who might need health care while visiting. The vast majority of services for Cubans are free, but more extensive treatment is rather simply means based. So essentially, wealthier Cubans might be expected to pay for a portion of their treatment, whereas lower income Cubans will receive all aspects of their treatment for free.
With some 3600 hours of musical education under their respective belts, it’s not surprising that Cuba is such a land of music. Sometimes the musical image of a country is born from stereotypes, and in France you would be hard pressed to find some smoky basement club where a crooner sings of love and loss. Likewise in Germany, you’re only going to find lederhosen-wearing bands at events largely aimed at tourists. But salsa music in Cuba is everywhere, something that is mentioned frequently when you’re looking for the best blog about Cuba. It’s quite usual to be enjoying a drink or a meal, only to have a salsa band take to the stage. Suddenly everyone is on their feet, young and old alike, dancing in a manner that makes visitors feel very clumsy indeed (although you should never let this stop you from joining in).
This is a sticky one, since much of the Cuban tradition of preservation was born out of the US embargo that made receiving new items difficult, and often impossible. But it means that things are preserved and handed down through the generations, instead of being discarded when a new model is available. This is perhaps most relevant when it comes to those stunningly beautiful old 1950s cars that the country is famed for. They have been running for more than half a century, and when a problem arises, it’s fixed (often with great ingenuity, taking parts from other models, and indeed other devices). It’s not as though something is updated as soon as a newer version comes on the market. Hopefully this art of preservation is never lost.