Author of the book Cherries au rhum: Some Cubans have Fidel in a golden frame in their living room

Have you ever left to write a travel book?
Not at all. However, as the departure approached, the absurd situations multiplied and our expedition into the bowels of tropical socialism gained more and more “fans”, especially from my work colleagues, who had it first hand and when they heard what was going on they demanded they want to know all the details. So first I wrote statuses on Facebook. For two reasons – first, to relieve me a bit, because that’s why social networks are a bit like that. Whether we complain or boast about it. And second, having something like a black box. Which, of course, is exaggerated, but it was a form of such a notebook.

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But I was very surprised at the number of people who read it and even shared it. Even such an impromptu samizdat even worked for a while, when I couldn’t connect to Cuba, I sent diary paragraphs in text messages, and my friends threw them on social networks under the agreed hashtag # tresneurumu.

What place in Cuba got you and why?
It depends which way. It’s a land of huge opposites, there are places where you marvel at untouched nature, and only a moment later you shake in disgust, or just shake your head, or laugh like an asshole, because some things can only really happen in Cuba. I’ve often been struck by the difference between reality and promotional material, but beware – not just Cubans. It’s kind of planned there. But even some national travel sites are full of nonsense.

I’m going to cut it short because it would be for a few long drinks. The worst city? Certainly Matanzas. It is said to have the nickname “Venice of Cuba”, but even if it means “Venice above the Jizera”, it is either a perverse error or a trolling of tourists. The most beautiful place? El Nicho Falls. Everyone drives Varadero, while a true dream tropical paradise is 200 kilometers away. The biggest weirdo? Mural de la Prehistoria, a cave painting commissioned by Fidel Castro in the Viñales Valley. Because just google it. Please. It cannot be described.

I guess this trip was not without disagreements. What didn’t you understand?
Grandfather is a forged communist, so there are countless frictions between us, which have been exacerbated by the Cuban landscape. So, logically, we disagree on whether and to what extent US politics or local one-party government is responsible for the current state of Cuba. That Fidel Castro was a courageous revolutionary and an inspiring leader, or rather a mass murderer who did not hesitate to assassinate his opponents on a large scale, the same Che Guevara. Whether the store shelves are full or empty, or whether the inhabitants live beautifully, or vice versa.

And what do you always agree with your grandfather on?
This local rum was fake and the Trinidad bar band playing Benny More Seeds was absolutely brilliant.

Karel Polacek

Karel Poláček is always having fun. Traces of his life and heroes remain in Rychnov to this day

Did you perceive the Cuban reality differently from your grandparent?
Many, I have already indicated. Grandpa must have seen some striking things too, but the subject of Cuba touches the very pillars of his political beliefs, so he just stopped critical thinking. As a result, he did not have to reconsider what he had long thought of Cuba. That everything is perfect there and what is not, America is to blame.

Cuban life is made up of several constants. Rum and communism, to which the title of your book refers, certainly belong to them. Do these two constants really play such an important role for ordinary people?
In my opinion, absolutely essential. You cannot avoid a socialist establishment as a citizen, it affects the vast majority of your being, whatever field of human activity we indicate. Rum too, simply because it is made from sugar cane, and that ultimately affected the history of the island more than anything else. It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that without communism and sugar, Cuba would look like another country from top to bottom.

But if you’re asking about such a completely normal life, you probably can’t generalize. There are still people who have a golden frame in Fidel’s living room, they are still devoted to him and the leadership of the country suits them perfectly. Then there are those who simply don’t say their opinions out loud in order to have peace and think their own. And then, of course, those who already have everything in their throats and would prefer to leave and never come back if possible, or even the dissidents, a large part of whom are imprisoned and bullied in any way possible.

How many of them I dare not estimate and it’s not really that important. The important thing is that anyone who is engaged in the Politburo probably has no problem and Cuba can be a real island of happy people for them. Those who disagree with the regime, on the other hand, live very hard. A rum? It’s excellent, ubiquitous and cheap, even for locals, their average monthly income is around 600 Czech crowns. And you must have heard the joke that has been told in our country that as long as there is a Bolshevik, there is no value in sobering…

Writer Leoš Kyša aka Franta Kotleta

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Have you noticed any other unchanging things or phenomena?
It is hardly worth a visit to the country, I am happy to leave it to experienced travelers. I had to do something to keep our savings, our papers, the distribution of provisions and maybe my grandfather in the jungle, when he did not bring a cell phone with him and put himself looking for something to drink… which is such an enduring phenomenon for him.

Have you rested on a Cuban vacation?
Not much, but that wasn’t the point. The experience was multi-layered and strong, I’m really glad we gave it away!

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