Time has published a new special edition that will be at supermarket checkout counters and bookstores through Sep. 11: Inside the New Cuba: Discovering the Charm of a Once-Forbidden Island: The People, The Culture, The Paradise.
The glossy magazine mentions some of the continuing political oppression inside the communist dictatorship, but focuses on the island’s picturesque attractions, touts its many cultural attractions, and celebrates the thaw in U.S-Cuban relations formally announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in late 2014.
At times, the Time special strives to downplay Cuba’s grim political reality. Cuban exiles, writes Karl Vick, “came to dominate the U.S. view of Cuba for the next half-century, defining Castro’s regime as totalitarian and the Cuban people as victims.” He adds: “There was no shortage of facts supporting that view,” but says that “in retrospect, the Cold War only framed what was at heart a neighborhood grudge match.” He notes that Internet access unavailable, and “[e]very block has its Committee for the Defense of the Revolution to inform on the neighbors.”
The highlights likeliest to attract American interest spill across the pages: a visit to Ernest Hemingway’s “haunts,” a tour of Havana’s night clubs, a guide to cigars, and a section on Cuban baseball. (Defections by Cuban athletes continued this month: one of the non-defectors said: “I hope they’re happy. They have left something beautiful behind, which is socialism and our country’s dignity. Let them do what they can in other countries. We will continue doing what we can for the revolution.”) A section on art features brightly-colored propaganda mosaics.
There is, of course, the chance that Cuba really will change–if the Obama administration decides to apply pressure, which it has largely declined to do, or–more likely–once the Castro brothers go the way of all flesh.
Time‘s writers seem preoccupied with a different kind of change–namely, the prospect of thousands of rich American tourists arriving and demanding creature comforts that will ruin the island’s charm. That might be a price that Cuba’s people might well be willing to pay, if it also brings prosperity, openness and freedom.