“. . . I have never seen anything so beautiful. The country around the river is full of trees, beautiful and green and different from ours, each with flowers and its own kind of fruit. There are many birds of all sizes that sing very sweetly, and there are many palms different from those in Guinea or Spain. Some are of medium height without any bark at the base, and the leaves are very large. The Indians cover their houses with these leaves. The land is very level.

“I took the small boat ashore and approached two houses that I thought belonged to fishermen. The people fled in fear. In one of the houses we found a dog that did not bark, and in both houses we found nets made of palm threads; cords; fishhooks made of horn; harpoons made from bone; and other fishing materials. There were many fire hearths; and I believe that many people live together in each house. I ordered that not one thing be touched, and thus it was done.”

From the journal of Christopher Columbus, Sunday, 28 October 1492

“When first in the dim light of early morning I saw the shores of Cuba rise and define themselves from dark-blue horizons, I felt as if I sailed with Captain Silver and first gazed on Treasure Island. Here was a place where real things were going on. Here was a scene of vital action. Here was a place where anything might happen. Here was a place where something would certainly happen. Here I might leave my bones.”

Winston Churchill, on visiting Cuba in 1898

“I have been transported to Fairyland, I now live in an Enchanted Palace! All my sadness and apprehension fled the moment I caught sight of Havana.”

Anais Nin, 1922

“Sometimes, when I go out at night and sit on the seawall alone, feeling the spray of the salt, the faint strumming of acoustic guitars carried on the wind, and the broad empty boulevards sweeping along the lovely curve of Havana Bay, I feel that I could never know a greater happiness.”

Pico Iyer, 1992

I felt a wave of peace and happiness surge through my body as soon as the plane began to land in Havana. I knew this place would break my heart …

Amy Goodman, 2007