McClatchyDC.com: On the road in Cuba, tales of woe and yearning
ON THE CARRETERA CENTRAL, Cuba — “Subanse,” climb aboard, I said repeatedly, pulling the right wheels of my eight-seat van off the dangerous two-lane highway that snakes hundreds of miles across an island considered off limits to most Americans.
Ostensibly, I was in Cuba to cover Pope Benedict XVI’s visit. But over the week and across the length of the Ohio-sized country, I gave more than five dozen Cubans a “botella” — in Cuban slang, a ride.
My riders gave an unvarnished view of the country. They were farmers, housewives and doctors. They were school kids, half a baseball team, an economist and even a judge, who proclaimed herself to be a huge fan of Jack Bauer in the American TV thriller series “24.”
The van was a lark. Waiting for my small rental car at the Havana airport for two hours — described to me as five Cuban minutes — the overworked rental agent finally offered me the huge diesel-powered vehicle if I’d get on my way.
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I spent most of the following week offering ordinary Cubans a ride in my gray Hyundai van — which often carried more passengers than it was designed to.
I don’t speak with a gringo accent. Some riders thought I was Argentine, most were baffled and many were wide-eyed to discover their driver was American and a reporter to boot.
“I have an aunt in Florida,” said Angela, who got in before Camaguey, a central Cuban city. Many others said the same, citing family members in Miami, Orlando and Houston…..Read More
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