tv The Wonder List With Bill Weir CNN March 20, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
a young woman leads me through an old city. away from the bustle and lights to the part of havana that does not serve daiquiris to tourists. the part where spanish colonial meets zombie apocalypse. the part where she grew up. but in the dark rubble, instead of fear, there is love. instead of anger, instead of shame, i find pride. let me ask you, because as a
first-timer, as an american coming from the outside, i look at this city and i think, oh, it's so tragic how it's falling apart, it's crumbling. and this place could be so beautiful if the politics were different. as a cuban, does that make sense? >> i'm not a politic person. pero -- how can i explain? >> an explanation of cuba. this is exactly what i came looking for. an explanation of this forbidden island full of neighbors we do not know, just as they brace for an american invasion. ♪ my name is bill weir and i'm a storyteller. i've reported from all over the
world and i have seen so much change. so i made a list of the most wonderful places to explore right before they change forever. this is "the wonder list." ♪ i've got to be honest, i boarded the 40-minute flight to cuba expecting to find 10 million pent-up capitalists waiting on the other side. 10 million freedom-craving small d democrats eager to turn their feral paradise back into a millionaire's playground. but what i found blew the mind of this cold war kid.
>> never thought i'd see a day when i would be driving past the u.s. embassy in havana in a 1957 fuchsia ford fairlane. but hey, you know, even the communists have to admit that havana wouldn't be havana without a little bit of detroit. ♪ funny how good old capitalist steel turned out to be the best investment down here. whoever kept grandpa's car running with black market parts and cuban ingenuity now gets to ferry goofballs like me around havana for 40 bucks an hour, twice what the average cuban makes in a month. but that economy is changing. and there's a lot more to this place than old cars and forbidden cigars. but coming in, i didn't know that.
see, when i was a boy, cuba was an enemy, too close for comfort. cuba equaled duck and cover and soviet missiles and a scary, shameful place known as the bay of pigs. so now that i'm in, it seems only fitting to start in the bay of pigs. >> on the beach at the bay of pigs fighting continues. [ explosions ] >> it was here in '61 when 1,500 cuban exiles tried to take their country back from a communist named fidel. they were trained by america and it was a complete mess. for one thing, the cia helped pick an invasion route with one road. ocean on that side, swamp on that side. the old world war ii bombers they used missed every target. their ships ran into either coral reefs or fidel's air force. and their cover was blown so
badly a local radio station broadcast the exiles' every move. the mercenaries made it this far, the sign says, a monument to one of the most spectacular failures in military history. ♪ but fish know nothing about politics. crabs are clueless about communism. coral can't mount a revolution. so down here, it's almost like the cold war never happened. overfishing is a problem since many cubans can only afford to
eat what they catch. what protected reefs like jardenas de la reina are among the best in the world. and here is where the irony gets thick. since castro was a scuba diver, poisoned wet suits and exploding sea shells are among the ways that america plotted to kill him. but his love of the sea and the health of these reefs turn out to be one big reason america and cuba have any dialogue at all. fish know no politics, right? >> exactly. exactly. they don't have borders. >> no borders. >> and it goes beyond fish. it's migratory birds. it's even manatees. >> sharks? >> sharks. >> larvae. >> larvae that are passive migrato migrators. >> it's a nice office you have. >> exactly. >> jesse and erik are cuban marine biologists. fernando is a cuban-american
devoted to using science to trump ideology. he used castro's love of marine life to open a dialogue years before the politicians. so he credits manatee diplomacy with the change in cold war tone. >> i think we have a lot to do with that. our science diplomacy, breaking down barriers. from my perspective, i'm a florida resident. so my work here in cuba is selfish as well. >> you're downstream. >> i'm downstream. so whatever happens, if cuban reefs are not well-protected, if we lose this crown jewel of the caribbean, florida suffers. the gulf of mexico suffers. new jersey suffers. >> florida is just 90 miles away but reefs this healthy are impossible to find there anymore. american coastlines simply have too many people, too many chemicals, sunscreen, boat fuel, fertilizer, pesticide. what worries you the most about the future of these waters? >> it's really tourism. cuba gets 3 million tourists a year. the state of florida gets 92 million tourists a year. >> we cannot eliminate
completely this source of income to the country because it's important, but we have to do something good to protect the corals and ecosystems. >> you walk to cubans, they don't want to be the next cancun. no cuban wants that. >> for a cold war child it's amazing that americans can now shop in east berlin and surf in vietnam and vacation in the bay of pigs. but the way this tropical gem changes may be much different. you know what american brand generates the most buzz in cuba today? it's not hilton or marriott or mcdonald's. it's airbnb. >> look at this. this is right out of "old man and the sea" right here. gorgeous little fishing village, rustic boats and here's our hotel, casa ernesto.
the room is clean. seafood fresh. beer cold. all for around 30 bucks a night. since the cuban government allowed average folks to open restaurants and casas particulares, they are getting a little nibble of capitalism. it's tough to open a store, so they still buy groceries from roaming vendors. but those tourist dollars go a long way. and the gentleman who owns our guest house can even afford american parts for his 1925 chevy. in fact, he's doing so well, he just turned down a rich foreigner of havana who offered to buy it for $45,000. >> no ford, no nothing. only chevrolet. >> see, a chevy man is a chevy man. >> so all of you collectors who think you're going to come here
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♪ at the edge of the everglades of cuba, a place called zapata swamp, 50 cents will let you dangle a chunk of catfish over a pile of cuban crocodiles. ♪ which is kind of fun because unlike their american cousins, they can leap like lebron james and bite through a 2-by-4 like it's celery. but it is also kind of alarming because this is a critical endangered species in the wild. yet cuba breeds them by the thousands in here and sells them as meat. of the few wild crocs left in the swamp, many have been getting busy with american crocodiles, diluting the purity of the gene pool. and here's where this creature becomes a metaphor for the whole
country. because to guarantee the survival of this distinctly cuban species the government keeps them caged off from america. >> that's troubling, it is, to see crocodiles in hatcheries. it is. but their focus is a good one and there's this thinking to potentially release some of these crocodiles. but cuba is changing. the hatchery is kind of a sign of the past. >> crossing the countryside, everything is a sign of the past. ♪ havana gets most of the attention but more than 80% of cubans are country folk who eat what they grow. but if you're going to be a subsistence farmer, there are few places better than vinales, where hot sun, sweet rain, and
red earth make for agricultural magic. >> this is some of the most fertile land in the world. you drop a seed here, and whoo, everything grows? >> that's my guide and translator josue on the right. dorian is in the middle and like his father and father's father, he works one of the prettiest farms i have ever seen. bursting with coffee and guava, papaya and banana. but on the 12 acres the government gave his dad, the crop is tobacco. what napa or bordeaux is to wine, this place is to cigar leaf. and while a good box of cohibas can sell for 1,000 bucks apiece, they pay him only $10,000 a year to grow it. so for a guy who only knows homegrown, hand-rolled, dorian deserves a cohiba. >> let me buy you a cigar.
i've always wanted to say that. >> ah. >> nice, huh? >> muy bueno. >> so what are your thoughts about maybe the end of the embargo with america? but the demand for these will skyrocket. if americans can suddenly buy your cigars, do you think you can keep up? would you have to stop growing other crops?
>> but imagine if the government got out of the way entirely. imagine the high-end tourists who would flock to this place to taste his wears the way wine lovers sip and dine among the vines. you should have americans come and taste your tobacco and have a little restaurant right there. okay. all right. right. well, we'll go into business together. we have to change you into a capitalist but we can do it. honestly, he seems more interested in camaraderie than capital gains. same goes for the folks in the nearby village. more farmers/innkeepers like prudencio, who fought in the revolution. how's life these days compared to then? can i ask how old you are?
my god, you look 40. what's your secret? the house is just amazing. beds are comfortable, dinners were delicious. but more importantly, kenia and her family made me feel welcome and homely. his daughter-in-law kenia runs a guest house so popular, they are building another while raising two daughters. two girls. two girls. i have one girl. olivia.
oh, no. almost every house on their humble street is a casa particular with tripadvisor ratings and a tiny hint of competition between neighbors. see, that's not a good business plan. i can tell you're cuban, not american. just so you know, if too many americans come, they could say, i want colder beer. i want better accommodations. it could change your life. >> we get nervous when americans come. that's true. >> well, i apologize on behalf
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♪ most cubans would blame the american blockade. most americans would blame the castros and communism. either way, there is no denying that the paris of the caribbean has become the world's sexiest ruin. ♪ case in point, my first night in havana we're having complicated cocktails at a hip new place and up pulls antique water truck, a guy with a hose fills a tank behind the bar and i'm thinking, this is not abu dhabi. we're in the tropics.
why truck in water? well, it turns out that havana's plumbing is so old and leaky full pressure creates massive puddles and breeds mosquitos, so they ration the city's flow. >> if you look around, 80% of the city you see was built between 1900 and 1958. now you have a city built in a very short period, very fast, very well but now it's aging. >> right. >> and today the average age of the houses in havana is 75. >> miguel is a renowned professor of architecture and he watched his city crumble even faster since the late '80s when their soviet union sugar daddies went south. now new laws allow cubans to finally own real estate, one house in the city, one in the country. apartments along the malecon are starting to skyrocket but most can be bought for dirt cheap.
>> my former house was 1800 square feet and the value was 16,000 pesos. so in dollars, it's about 650. >> $650 for an 1800-square-foot house? >> three bedrooms, two bathrooms, et cetera. >> but try fixing up that house when supplies only come from the government or the black market. >> suppose you want to paint your house. a gallon of paint would cost you $5. and the average cuban's salary is around $20 a month. >> that's a quarter of your salary for a gallon of paint. cubans enjoy free education and free health care. with the vast network of family doctors, they have lower infant mortality than americans and, according to some statistics, longer life spans. look at that. it's incredible. it's like finding an archaeological ruin. >> do you want to go in? >> can we? >> yeah. sure.
>> but most earn that government salary of 20 bucks a month, so too many are forced to spend those long lives in places like this. look at this. yoandy is a designer and architect, which is lovely and tragic because independent architect is not a legal profession yet. >> sadly, i have to work with the mason because the mason can't have a license to work and
fix the building legally but as an architect i can't. it is not legal. i have to work with a government institution. >> he is allowed to sell real estate, so he uses that crack in the system to help people rebuild the best they can. but as an architect, as somebody who loves history, who loves design, what goes through your mind and your heart when you see a place like this? >> well, i am -- as a cuban, i am sad, of course. but as an architect, this is an amazing opportunity. for me, this is not a ruin. this is a gold mine. also, drugs, prostitution, social problems obviously exist. but it's not -- >> right. >> you feel safe, right? >> people are amazing. we walked right into -- >> everybody was kind, everybody was nice. and we are in one of the poorest areas of the city. so that tell a lot about the cuban society. it's like a welcome. we can do something with this.
>> right. right. >> that attitude, a little example of resolviendo, the cuban art of resolving life's problems when there's never enough of everything. for example, this is a filling station for disposable lighters. need a tow truck? fat chance. but plenty of strangers will happily stop and push. and if you need a nail, well, you just have to find a piece of scrap lumber and pull. you've got this amazing opportunity to go do design and architectural work in america, right? >> yeah. >> what was it like the first time you walked into a home depot? >> oh, my goodness. that is the cathedral of my religion. >> that's the cathedral. just to have a box of screws for you is an impossible luxury. >> yeah. many options.
i mean, if we don't have the options it makes me crazy. >> so how long before there's a home depot in havana, do you think? >> hopefully next year. >> really? i mean, realistically, though, do you see a day where that's possible? >> well, we need to change a lot of concepts in terms of supplies, in terms of -- obviously, the embargo is a big restriction. >> yeah. but even if the u.s. gave a big company like home depot the green light, the cuban government will always demand 51% ownership of any foreign business. how many ceos do you know who would take that bet when havana can't even promise running water? maria is among the officials in charge of preserving and restoring old havana and she is a bit of a buzz kill for those who think this place is about to become the new miami.
beyond the basic infrastructure, beyond the basic infrastructure, she says cuba isn't ready for the social impact of an american invasion while the influence of american money is what worries miguel. >> let's be cubans. let's improve this but the cuban way. >> but can you improve it without a huge influx of american cash? >> well, cuba demands today a big influx of foreign investment. it is estimated by the government that about $2 billion are necessary. so, okay, bring the investment. but don't say, okay, this is open. do what you want. no, no, no. >> right. >> let's do it according to us. >> so even after the castros are a memory, the cuban renaissance may take a while, appealing only
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this is the kind of music they are most likely to hear. for lovers of the classics -- ♪ the havana symphony will occasionally fill a place like the cathedral plaza with free music for the masses. on this night chinese sensation lang lang is there. with legendary bandleader chucho valdez. his steinway is the first american-made piano allowed in since the revolution and leading the cuban symphony, a conductor from baltimore. so the government is starting to relax, right? well, maybe when it comes to tchaikovsky. but when it comes to more rebellious music, that is a lot more complicated. ♪
this is danay suarez, the young woman who was so eager to show me that crumbling place where she grew up. as an american coming from the outside, i look at this city and i think, this place could be so beautiful if the politics were different. as a cuban, does that make sense? she's a singer and rapper, so i expect her to drop harsh truth on a system which left her neighborhood in shambles. but she doesn't. ♪ after being discovered on youtube, she has recorded in america, performed for sold-out stadiums in south america.
but when it comes to spreading her brand across cuba, she's at the mercy of the government's ministry of culture and the island's primitive internet. >> you can't download videos or nothing and my mom and my father sometimes they don't know about my work. they don't know about my concerts outside of the country because they can't see the new -- >> right. so it's not a matter of censorship. it's not the government keeps people off the internet. it's just the internet is so weak. is that the case? >> i haven't found no censorship. i read "the miami herald" newspaper that it's known for saying things that the cuban government disagrees with but i can read it. you can open "the new york times." you can open the "washington post." there is right there no censorship whatsoever. >> right. you just have to be able to afford it.
>> yeah. >> you hungry? let's get some food. >> a few years back, rap music began to trickle in from miami, a genre well-suited to danay's skills. >> if you want to sing rap you say -- you use rhymes and you use words. no? the same. if you sing like that, you can say -- ♪ >> but the whole rap scene made the cuban government very nervous. ♪
♪ >> what worries you the most about the fast changes in cuba? >> i worry about if we have private property, maybe one day we can sell guns. i worry about that. >> you worry you could end up like america where everybody needs a gun to protect their private property? >> yes. yes. because that's why in cuba right now we have great boxing. [ laughter ] >> people get punched but no one gets shot? >> yes.
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two cubanos are working on an old car under the blazing havana sun. hey, josue, the first one says, can you name the three greatest accomplishments of the cuban revolution? si, says josue. science, sports and the arts. right. but can you name the three greatest failures? si, says josue. >> breakfast, lunch, and dinner. >> not long ago a joke like that would have gotten josue locked up in one of fidel's prisons. but things are changing. you can spot the pockets of havana where people are obviously getting help from relatives in miami, islands of new wealth in a sea of resolviendo. ♪
it looks like a trendy boutique you might see in soho or melrose district of los angeles and then right across the street, you have people raising chickens on their balcony. ♪ how is life in havana these days? >> really hard, man. >> it's hard? >> yeah. some people think change is the future. i hope so. >> you hope so? you don't think so? >> maybe it's change for business, for government. but for the people, i don't know.
more young people it's better. >> more young people in government? >> more revolutions. new ideas. we need that. maybe in a few years good. >> really? >> yeah, man. >> i came here expecting to find that sentiment everywhere. but to my surprise, so many seemed proud of the cuban system, warts and all. and many like josue cast a wary eye toward the american dream. >> you've lived in america? >> yeah. i lived in miami for seven years. >> for seven years. and that didn't convince you that capitalism is the way to go, that freedom and democracy is the better way? >> you can call it anything you want but how -- what do we do with it? a lady used to work with my wife, she said to her once, freedom is that i can buy anything i want. i'm like, okay, this is very shallow, you know. >> right. >> freedom for me goes beyond
material things, you know. i have a friend who used to have a huge, very beautiful nose and i met her in the streets and almost didn't recognize her when i got to miami because everyone wants to get surgery and everyone wants to look the same and it's all about what you're driving. i know a guy who was driving a maserati, living with his mom. can you believe that? >> sure. yeah. >> that hurt me really bad in miami to see a lack of soul in this place, you know, and i was paying 150 bucks for cable because i wanted one channel in particular and you're paying a bunch of money for television and still going to get commercials. freedom is somehow compromised. >> interesting. >> again, i don't want to watch that. so, in a way, it's the same. >> so you see socialism as freedom from commercials? >> yeah. >> freedom from cable bundles. freedom from -- >> a lot of things that you
-- >> plastic surgery? >> yeah. all of these things that i would rather have less material and more spiritual, more on the cultural side. >> so let me come at you like a proud american and one, you know, who grew up in the cold war. capitalism built these spectacular buildings of havana. communism let them go to hell. communism broke this city. it's a glorious mess. is that not fair? >> it would be fair but we have to expand on it. >> josue fully admits that their system is a disorganized, bureaucratic mess. but he believes the root cause of cuba's misery is the giant neighbor to the north. >> we call it blockeo. you call it embargo. it's been hurting us a lot. there's david and goliath metaphor used and over and over before. because it's the perfect metaphor for this. >> america is the goliath? >> america it's the goliath in front of us. and it's right there. so i think it's everybody's fault.
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throw sponge bob into the street and huff back to lookout farm, where even today everything is just like he left it. ♪ because papa thought he'd be back. back in his favorite boots reading his favorite books. he wrote "the old man and the sea" on this machine, under the trophy he shot. so surely he would have packed them if he knew he was leaving cuba forever. but like so many, hemingway thought the revolution would blow over and americans would be right back. well, he was just off by a half century or so. it's amazing being in here. it's so well-preserved. >> this is probably the best-preserved place of the
houses that he had. >> most visitors are only allowed to peak in the windows but john and patrick are hemingway grandsons. >> so that's greg, our father. and that's our uncle pat. >> since their stepmom left this place to the cuban people, they are not here as heirs but guests. look at all of the books, man. >> well, you figure. >> yeah. is this his office? is this -- or just another study? >> this is the library, i think. >> library. >> yeah. >> but gary cooper used to nurse his hangovers on this couch right here. >> is that right? >> yeah. >> after fleeing the crush of key west, hemingway holed up here for 20 years. so the house is a horde of manly knickknacks, mementos of war and the hunt, and his complicated psyche. >> this is a bit of the archaeology here. >> he would keep track of his weight? >> he was obsessed with it. >> you have a complicated family history but do you have any sense of ownership? do you think this should be ours, we should be able to come and go here as we please?
>> i don't feel that. >> i wouldn't want to live in one of the houses like this because it's just too much of an attraction for people. >> that attraction will only get bigger as more americans come. but more important are all the cubans who fled their comfortable homes certain they'd be right back. >> my parents had a crazy story. they left cuba in 1961 as peter pan migrants. so these were kids that, during the height of the cuban revolution, were sent away by their families to live with family in the united states. >> and their parents said we're going to send you to the states while this -- until this blows over? >> yeah. >> and then never came back for years? >> my parents never came back. >> fernando is one of 2 million cuban-americans, and like so many, he grew up yearning to know his homeland but was held back by loved ones who still carry the pain of the revolution. you must have relatives who would freak out if they knew you were here now, right? >> my great uncle spent 16 years in prison here in cuba being
involved with counterrevolutionary activity. he's probably the one that would have the biggest issue because of what he went through. but even my grandmother, who had to send her kids away and had to leave her homeland, she's very supportive of my work. she understands that i'm a link's, i'm a bridge to what was. >> today, the united states of america is changing its relationship with the people of cuba. >> i see cubans with a lot of hope now, which is really exciting. december 17th, 2014 is forever etched in my mind as a day when we could finally have some hope. >> i found that hope over and over across the island. but it was always hope tempered with cautious worry. >> america is here, cuba is here. and we enjoy it. we think cuba as a copy to the united states it doesn't make any sense to visit cuba or come to havana. >> you've got to love the irony
of posters of che guevara, the anti-capitalist, being sold in a market like this, right? >> yeah. exactly. >> that says it all, doesn't it? >> we can't just be stuck. we need to go forward. so it's part of the history. >> a little bit communist, a little bit capitalist. >> yeah. that's why the huge chance that we have to create something interesting. hopefully better. hopefully we don't have to say capitalism, socialism. we're just cuban society. >> cuban society. >> hopefully. >> one of a kind. >> i say farewell to yoandy and a market bursting with cuban creativity and i can't help but wonder what would be possible if they had all the paint, all the tools and freedom in the world. i came here to find people desperately wanting the american dream. instead i found people fiercely proud of the cuban soul. maybe the next generation
doesn't have to pick one or the other. other. maybe they can share. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com this is a historic visit, and it's a historic opportunity to engage directly with the cuban people. >> barack obama becomes the first sitting president to visit cuba in 80 years. an exclusive look at the largest joint military exercise between the u.s. and south korea and how seoul's northern neighbor is reacting many plus, as another campaign rally gets feisty, how does the rest of the world feel about the prospect of president donald trump? we'll bring you reports from israel and