hen I travel I am always surprised at how safe I feel. I have traveled all over the world by myself and for the most part, have always felt safe when walking down the street. I was recently in Havana, Cuba and from American news outlets I’ve heard all of my life that Cuba is a place where I should have been scared. However, my black skin was well received and I was treated with dignity and respect by all I met.
Traveling to a country where your color isn’t a factor in how you are treated is an amazing feeling. When I was in Havana the blackness of my skin wasn’t an issue. From the moment I walked out of the airport until the moment I left I felt as ease. There was never a moment where I was reminded that my blackness was considered inferior. I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have racial issues because they do. Many dark skinned Cubans have a much harder time than their light skinned brothers and sisters but as an American, my Black skin wasn’t a factor.
Sometimes when I travel I don’t realize how much my race is a factor in America until I leave and visit a country where I’m celebrated and appreciated. Being able to walk down the street and not feel judged is freeing in ways unimaginable. Getting most of my information from American news, Havana has been vilified. It has been portrayed as this evil third world place that no one should dare visit. However, my experience was the complete opposite. Seeing people all around me with the varied hues of blackness was refreshing. Hearing the first foreign language I learned being spoken daily put a smile on my face that hardly ever left. For me, my blackness in Havana was empowering. Even though the city is poor, the feeling of having my skin valued and not questioned made me feel rich in ways unimaginable.
One example of how my blackness wasn’t an issue and safety not a concern was when I was coming home from a night on the town. I was hanging out with some of my Black American friends and we got into a taxi, there were 5 of us. I was staying in a different part of town so one of my girlfriends said, “Roni, we will drop you off first so you don’t have to be alone.” Because I had felt so safe in Havana I didn’t think it was necessary but I wanted to appease my friends so I agreed. When I told the light skinned driver in Spanish that I wanted to be dropped off first he said that wasn’t the best way and he was going to drop them off first. I told him my friends were concerned with my safety and the look he gave me was one of incredulity. He merely waved his hand and said in Spanish, “What’s gonna happen?” When he took me to my apartment he waited until I got into my door before he drove off. The thought of harming me or that harm could come to me didn’t even seem to be part of his psyche and the cab ride was easy which isn’t always the case as a Black woman trying to catch a cab in America. Again, I am in no way saying Havana doesn’t have issues with skin color but from my perspective as an American visiting, I felt welcomed and free which is always liberating.
-The Travel Guru
My name is Roni Faida (pronounced fie-e-da) I'm a former tour guide and a trilingual travel expert who is now traveling for fun and sharing my adventures and advice with you.
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