Friday, March 23, 2012

Canucks, inuksuks and Cuba

A secluded beach west of Santiago de Cuba.

Waves crash, palms blow, vultures wheel, clouds unspool. Here on the Costa Morena, the rugged coast west of Santiago de Cuba, all nature salsas frantically in the wind. Flopped like a castaway under a massive seagrape, sunburnt, pants torn, I suddenly get Van Gogh. Vincent never made it to Cuba but he would have known how to paint it: all agitated, spinning daubs. I need a video camera, not a pile of salt-stained sketchbooks, to record all this action. My sketches, I realize, are less a document of this trip and more an exercise in slowing down to really see nature's complex patterns. They're also signposts to feelings and memories.
Off to build another inuksuk!
Seagrape leaves fly off my tree, spinning like circus plates towards the lowering sun.  Pat will be waiting, I know, laughing with Canadian and Cuban friends back at the hotel bar where everyone meets at this time of day. I wander back along the beach, thinking about other trips to Cuba, places visited, people met.
Canadians visit Cuba to the tune of a million a year. For many, it's more than a cheap vacation spot; it has become our place in the sun. Some have been going for decades, building on long friendships and romances, getting married, making and baptizing babies. I'm always surprised, too, at how often I meet Cubans who have been in Toronto for some reason or another and express their love of High Park and snow.
Four little inuksuit stare off towards Jamaica.
As I near the hotel, I stop to photograph an inuksuk, then another. Little sentries of stone and coral, staring out to sea. Once built as monuments for communication and survival in the Arctic (the preferred Inuit spelling is inuksuk, plural inuksuit), the inuksuk is now often used officially as a symbol of Canadian friendship and cooperation. Here on a deserted Cuban beach, they are signposts to the passage of Canadians and tokens of affection for their windblown place in the sun.

I heart inuksuit, driftwood and Cuba.


  1. Looks like a beautiful place. I wish travel for folks from the US to Cuba wasn't so complicated.

    I will have to watch for inuksuit in my travels - neat calling card to the world from Canadians!

    1. Just come up to Canada, Mark, and book a cheap last-minute package through Sunwing from here! As I understand it, Americans are just not supposed to spend any money there. Aside from the 25 CUC departure fee and a few tips, it's a hard place to spend money ...

  2. I had heard that the beaches on the western coast of Cuba were not that nice but your post proves that wrong! The water looks very blue and it seems like an unspoiled stretch of sand and nature.