In June 2017, we returned to Cuba and Guatemala for the 70th Unconventional Conventions conference. We followed the same journey as we'd made in 2010 and 2011, and not much has changed. Mojitos, dancing, colourful markets, ancient ruins.... it brought back a lot of great memories.
In Cuba we had 3 of our amazing guides from our previous trips; Liber, Jorge and Lazaro
Liber - His oldest daughter is now 6 and started school. Has now has a 6 month old daughter who is keeping him very busy.
Jorge - Back in 2011, someone in the group whispering "Don't look now, but there has been a government agent following us everywhere we've been". Jorge is still well and constantly giving the others a hard time.
Lazaro - Is joyful and happy as always. His asthma is now under control and he thanks everyone from our group who have him supplies and continued to send him things after they returned to Australia.
As you'd expect, there were a lot of mojitos and dancing. We had the Buena Vista Social club perform for us again at the farewell dinner, which kicked on into the night as usual.
To be honest, there aren't a lot of visible changes in Cuba since we were last there. Raul Castro introduced a lot of small changes in 2014, but the impact is not visible yet. The biggest change is the ability for Cubans to sell their homes, which will allow for money to flow back into the country from expats. This will eventually result in mortgages becoming available, and loans for businesses - all moving towards business growth. At the moment, homes are sold at the market with home made signs:
The cuisine hasn't changed much in rural areas of Cuba. Chicken, beans and rice is still the go to meal. However, there are a few restaurants in Havana that have a more extensive menu.
After all the Mojitos in Cuba, it was a relief to embrace the laid back lifestyle of Guatemala. We visited the ruins in Tikal, the colourful markets, Lake Atitlan with the two volcanos and Antigua. We reunited with our little English guide, Jane, who we had back in 2010 and 2011. She now works with her husband, Alfredo, and they have a 4 year old grandchild.
We revisited the Gonzalez family who run the small coffee farm of the side of a volcano outside of Antigua. They still use the coffee grinding stone and a coffee-depulper bike that we donated to them in 2009. They have increased their crop size, employed workers, and been able to keep their children in school longer. The second generation have now been able to buy land and the youngsters are ready to get to work in the family business as well. The youngest boy's name is Marco!!
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