An Introduction to Contemporary Cuba
MOST VISITORS who come to Cuba to study the revolution first set foot at José Martí airport in Havana and acquire their initial impressions of the country from the nation's capital. A visit to Havana can be as deceiving today as it was before 1959. Until then Havana lived off the wealth produced in the countryside and enjoyed an immeasurably higher standard of living than did Cuba's rural hinterland. There was a large middle class, which enjoyed many of the amenities associated with the American way of life. The country as a whole suffered from underdevelopment, manifested especially in high unemployment and lack of manufacturing industry, but these problems were less apparent in the capital than in the countryside.
Consumer goods were imported from Florida or were made in Cuba by American branch plants, in exchange for Cuban sugar and tobacco. Havana was an extension of the U.S. domestic market, and American influence was felt everywhere. Advertisements for American products saturated newspapers, billboards, and the television screens that were as ubiquitous in Havana as in Florida. Havana's modern downtown, replete with high-rise