Tourists in Cuba Find Themselves in Historic Moment

Havana is suddenly extremely subdued
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 28, 2016 12:43 AM CST
Updated Nov 28, 2016 3:33 AM CST
An image of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, surrounded by candles and roses, leans against a wall of the university where Castro studied law as a young man, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
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(Newser) – They came for salsa music and mojitos and ended up wandering through a city turned still and silent by nine days of national mourning for Fidel Castro. As Cuba prepares a massive commemoration for the leader of its socialist revolution, tens of thousands of high-season travelers have found themselves accidental witnesses to history—and smack in the middle of a somber city that's little like its usual exuberant self, the AP reports. "Who knows what tomorrow or after nine days brings in terms of the country and what happens for the future," says Graham Palmer, a 36-year-old visitor from London. "And I think we will certainly look back at the airport tomorrow and feel quite privileged that we've been here."

Yet Palmer and other travelers say there's also tinge of regret at seeing such a subdued Havana. Many museums have closed their doors, and a ban on live music has shuttered concerts and nightspots including the famed Tropicana nightclub. Old Havana these days is eerily devoid of the roving troubadours whose Buena Vista Social Club croonings normally echo through the streets. Visitors have been unable to visit the University of Havana or the Revolution Plaza, where Castro's ashes will be on display starting Monday. Meanwhile, a citywide ban on most alcohol sales means those savoring Cuban cigars for the first time have to do so without the traditional accompanying snifter of rum. (Read more Fidel Castro stories.)

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