Prior to 1959 and prior to Fidel Castro taking power in Cuba, the country was not the impoverished pariah state that we now know it as.
In fact, Cuba’s capital, Havana, was a dazzling and dynamic city. Casinos, lounges, and luxury hotels lined the coastlines, with celebrities like Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, and Ernest Hemingway regular visitors.
Havana was such a hot spot for international jet setters and vacationers that for just $50 (a couple of hundred dollars today), you could buy a roundtrip ticket from Miami to Havana, including hotel, food, and a few shows.
Consider that, pre-Castro, Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, and first in the number of televisions per inhabitant!
The literacy rate in Cuba was 76% at that time, which was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba also ranked 11th in the entire world in the number of doctors per capita, with numerous free clinics providing services to the poor.
While there were still vast economic inequalities, those were less drastic than in other areas of Latin America, and Cuba stood as one of the most promising nations in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba held a thriving middle class with the promise of prosperity and social mobility for those who embraced it.
So, what happened?
For those that don’t know, Fidel Castro came to power by challenging the old-guard political structure and instead promising a representative democracy.
Under his watch, Castro promised that life would be far better for the common person and economic inequalities would be wiped out. The rich and powerful would no longer have a stranglehold on the country, narrowing the gap between the haves and have-nots.
We know how the story has gone so far.
Sometimes, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. It’s usually better to work with what you have and improve it than to blow it all up and start over. It also takes a special foresight and perspective to realize that.
For instance, how many times have you questioned where you were at that time, whether or not you were in the right place, personally, professionally, or financially?
How many times have you made sweeping, drastic changes without fully understanding what that change would REALLY mean, how those decisions would really look and feel?
A change seemed right, seemed in line with justice even, and felt like it would offer the perfect solution.
But, when it came to fruition, it was not at all what you thought it was going to be. I don’t have to recap the pain and suffering that Castro and communism in Cuba have led to over the decades.
The bottom line is that change IS good. Deciding to do more and to buck the trend IS good.
But without prudence, thoughtfulness, and a mindful direction, all can be for not. And we only need to look at the lesson Cuba offers us as a prime example.