Anthony Bourdain Broke The Cuban Embargo Last Night, (Mostly) Without Embarrassing Himself

Categories: Media Watch
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via YouTube
Anthony Bourdain has the best travel show on television not just because he's an asshole, but because he's such a damn astute one. He doesn't buy the Chamber of Commerce's bullshit, but he also doesn't lean on cynicism for its own sake. Like any good journalist, in other words, he gets at the truth by asking some uncomfortable questions.

So what happens when Bourdain premieres a new season of No Reservations in a place decidedly uneasy with tough interviews? If you missed his Cuba episode last night, Tony broke the embargo and emerged, mostly, with his dignity intact.

One of the joys of Bourdain's show -- especially when he visits less than totally free societies -- is watching his push and pull with the local minders who are paid to feed him the government's hokum.

If he doesn't exactly put his Cuban guides on blast, he also consistently prods them about the inequalities he sees in Cuban life -- baseball stadiums without working lights, gross differences between food at foreign-aimed restaurants and local homes.

Sure, some on Calle Ocho will probably burn Tony's photo this morning for daring to set foot in the land of Castro and taking such joy in the classic cars, love of baseball and simple cooking he finds in local neighborhoods.

And yeah, Bourdain does buy the usual "But the hospitals and schools are great!" argument a little too easily toward the end of the episode.

But even Babalu Blog had trouble roasting the host for his show this morning. "I felt relief for the fact that Bourdain did not ignore the reality of life in Cuba, and the injustice of living in a totalitarian society," writes Alberto de la Cruz. "My disappointment came when he never pushed it further than a question or comment."

In an interview this morning with AOL about filming the episode, Bourdain says he could feel change in the air in Havana -- and hopes that liberalization doesn't mean Havana becomes Miami. Here's one part of the interview:
It's hard to know the true meaning of what I saw and experienced in Cuba as people are still guarded about what they say. The country is clearly headed for some major changes in the very near future. Everybody seems to be holding their breath with anticipation, not knowing what comes next and how events will unfold.

Personally, I'll be fascinated to see if with the inevitable changes - positive ones, like freedom of the press, freedom of speech, connection to the rest of the world, freedom to leave, to move around internally more easily - the country loses some if the uniquely good things like the unspoiled (if run down and crumbling) beauty of Havana. Or, the joy of pure baseball and the cars. I'd hate to see Havana look like Miami in a few years.
Either way, with travel to Cuba getting easier and easier for Americans, the exilio community should probably be grateful for the Bourdains of the world who at least try to get at the nuances of life under Castro. Let's just hope Man vs Food waits a few more years before bringing its frat-guy sensibilities to the island ...

If you missed the episode, a few clips are online. Here's Bourdain checking out a heated baseball argument in the park:



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Pepe
Pepe

In this subject. I'm just tired, we do business with China, Vietnam, all communist countries, why not Cuba. Why subject it to an embargo. What people mostly want in the world is economic prosperity even if there are somewhat less political freedoms. Economic prosperity is what Cuba needs, a lifting of the embargo, to all these Cuban sell-outs to get back their Cuban Passports, and once the embargo is lifted, change will be inevitable. Castro is a smart shrewd individual. The exiles made a fool of themselves by going out in the street and celebrate Castro's demise prematurely. They gave Fidel Castro, what he wanted, he was able to see the reaction of the exiles in the event of his death. This stupid exiles gave him the satisfaction.

Look,these exiles now they think they are Americans, because they hold a $ 5.00 piece of cardboard saying they are American Citizens...Look if you are born in Cuba or even if you were born here, and your mother and father are Cubans you are Cuban until the day you die. These guys are sell-outs.  No I do not want for Cuba to become another Miami, and sell out the culture, music, history etc. Even the music, none of the music we listen here is real Cuban music, you want to hear real Cuban music, go to Havana..People here can't make it, no talent. Societies were people have to struggle create the best talents. Even in the U.S, performers like Frank Sinatra etc, grew out of a sense of struggle, they couldn't afford to loose.

Finally, Cuba I think it's a great place, change is needed, but what they need is more economic than political. Cuban's were not able to handle democracy when they had it. What these exiles fail misererably to understand,is that yes political change is necessary absolutely, no one should be anywhere 50 years, Communism sucks, awful, but what most Cubans want is economic freedom first and then political freedom. The embargo which is the Castro excuse should be lifted. Let see what they do. No embargo, no more excuses. The world will see and so would the poor cuban people. Enough suffering 50 years of the same crap.

 Pepe
Pepe

Please don't eat more shit with Cuba and the fucking exiles. Look I went to Cuba, and the situation is not great, but the truth is not the living hell exiles proclaim. Look all of these Cuban politicians in Miami are as bad as Fidel, they make a living out of Fidel. Once Fidel dies these guys here in Miami are out of business.

Also I'm afraid that once this is all over the Cubans, should not allow exiles from Miami to make Cuba another Miami with it'd non-descript strip malls and poor architecture. Cuba is the most beautiful island in the world, even like it is now. I agree there has to be changed. Also fuck the embargo..I travel wherever I please because I'm free. Yes Cubans should have that right, but they leave Cuba and are allowed to return. I go 4 times per year, leaving next week.

Finally Ileana Ross-Lehtinen should worry more about her family problems, because one of her daughters or now son Rodrigo has major problems.  Look, Fidel will die in his bed, there will never be U.S style capitalism in Cuba,Yes there will be some democracy, but the country should'nt be in a constant state of elections. There has to be economic solvency, and if all the Cubans didn't run out of there like sissys and try to bring down Fidel from fancy restaurants, perhaps that guy wouldn't be there. They should learn from the Palestinians.

The United States is also not a piece of cake it's an illusion, no health care, education is always burdened with budget cuts, people live in debt, and it's social services suck as compared to Europe. I love the U.S, but this is not perfect either.

I applaud Anthony Bourdain, and I see you all from Havana. Leaving in the morning bye bye Ileana.  By the way most Cubans in the island do not want Cuba to become another Miami. If Cuba is to become another Miami, VIVA FIDEL!  I rather have a European presence (Spain) in Cuba than U.S..There are some imbecils that would even want to make it another fucking state. That will never ever happen.

Desipr71
Desipr71

Andew Zimmern also did a show in Cuba!!!  And both were spectacular!! 

timecompass
timecompass

With the wind in the sails of our new Nazies, Miami will soon look like Havana. This train is going backward. FLA leads the way. God Bless Jeb!

Michelle Catin
Michelle Catin

No Reservations is NOT a show that hones in on investigative journalism.  It's a show that's supposed to inspire people to travel. Given this context, I think Anthony told the best story he could. As a Cuban American, here are my thoughts. http://bit.ly/nPtlGO 

Angie Alzola
Angie Alzola

You know what bothered me the most about this episode? His main 'guide' was a dude from Indiana. WTF? And it also frosted my behind when a person as astute as he actually fell for the 'siren song' of all the wonders of 'the revolution' regarding the healthcare and educational systems. These have always existed and have been readily available.

The twinkle in Bourdain's eye when he was admiring the pictures of Che and Castro was a bit disturbing and I was disappointed to see him break bread with Roberto Salas (a true shyster). And while I agree that Havana is one of the lovliest in the Caribbean, lets not forget what she's truly become: an aging prostitute done up by her geriatric pimp trying to squeeze the last peso out of her.

Change is in the air? Change was also in the air in '59. It was swift and unapologetic. The difference is that now, when Change comes again, it will take three generations to truly begin to see its effects. Glad he enjoyed his rum and his mojitos at those state owned bars.  

Mario A. Gomez
Mario A. Gomez

Another comment made by another Cuban immigrant supporter of the Cuban Exile Mafia in Miami, that are still living in the past cold war era

MDP
MDP

Mr Gomez, first of all learn the meaning of words, Floridian Cubans as you state are not immigrants, they are exiles....that is a big different, they did not come here because Florida was better, they came here because they were leaving a communits country. You should get your fact correct. As for real Americans, first of all even Cuba is part of the Americas, and unless you are a Native American Indian their is no real Americans, even Cubans can describe themselves as America...look at a map Mr Gomez Cuba is part of the Americas.....

ziterman
ziterman

The term mafia is right.  These Cuban exile mafia are a bunch haters - marginal white people who should leave.  I don't even think Cuba want these pricks back.

The embargo should be ended.  I want to be able to buy real Cuban cigars.

Jules Winnfield
Jules Winnfield

"Mario A Gomez" Ha! That was a good one but you're not fooling anyone Mr. Castro, now get back to your oxygen chamber you geriatric fuck!

Guestguest
Guestguest

Education is like the only positive thing about that system.  Healthcare I am willing to battle.  BECAUSE I SAW HOW HORRIBLE THEIR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM REALLY IS.  I SAW IT WITH MY OWN AMERICAN EYES. Michael Moore lied to audiences with his whole Cuba's healthcare is the best in the world. LIES.  Sure, they have some of the best doctors in all of Latin America, but it's hard to work in a hospital with no working lights, no A/C, no bed sheets, no running water, hospital buildings falling apart.  I personally got sick, went to a local hospital (for cubans only) and was asked to lay on a metal examination table that was covered by a thin white BLOOD STAINED SHEET. There were no lights in the hallways, the only ventilation they have is to open the windows to the exterior, there are huge flies and mosquitoes all over the hospital.  Wait, it gets better, if you have to stay at the hospital the patient has to provide the sheets, bandages, in some cases injection needles,gauze, towel, and plenty of other things that one would think a hospital should have.

I can't blame Tony for going to Cuba, he tried not to pick sides, but it just hits a nerve when he says that the Healthcare is good and he's sitting at a table with a guy who was being investigated by the FBI for conspiring with Cuba.

Medpue
Medpue

Totally agree with you, it is an insult to say that Cuba has a great healthcare system, what the world does not know is that their Wonderful Doctors are for foreigners with DOLLARS, or people like Chavez, the locals do not have the same treatment, as you stated they need to take their bed sheets, needles, and most everything. It is sad when a Doctor is paid with a pen or some mangos in order to get a clean needle, thats the reality of Cuba, I know first hand I am married to a wonderful Cuban Doctor with a PHD and two specialties in Infection Disease and Tropical Medicine, he is Cuban his pay for being one of the best in his field was about $23 dollars per month and a bicycle. The reality of Cuba is only known for those that live it or those that have family there and know the truth, what is seen thru the media is only what that goverment wants you to see. So with all due respect to Anthony if you want to see the real Cuba don't take cameras and see it with a real family that lives there everyday.

Mario A. Gomez
Mario A. Gomez

Please "Stop Lying" you are not a real American you are a Cuban immigrant living in America, in your comment you sound like a broken record I have been hearing the same comments from the Cubans in Florida since i was 10,. I am can assure you that if you are a "Real American" and for any reason you have to use any Cuban Hospitals facilities they are going to take to the Best medical services they have in the country.

Cristina Ojeda
Cristina Ojeda

i'm sure what he meant by his Miami comment is that because of its complete separation from the rest of the world, Cuba has retained a certain purity of culture that has been, for the most part, lost everywhere else due to globalization, technology, etc... I am a Miami native & i completely agree. I just hope I am able to visit the island AFTER the fall of communism but BEFORE it's turned into Atlantis Pt. Deux...

Lcole222
Lcole222

I think that he did a great job and I am assuming he meant he does not want to see the true beauty of Havanna ever end up like a Commercialized playground like so many cities do in this day and age!

Flaviany
Flaviany

Hey, Isn't Miami who became Cuba first?I think Mr. Bourdain mixed up his mojitos...

Val Prieto
Val Prieto

Not sure what he means by hating to see "Havana looking like Miami," given the fact that the Cuba episode was preceded by a repeat of his Miami sojourn episode.

Alex Paez
Alex Paez

if anything, wouldn't miami be looking like havana, considering which one was established first? also, he's not the one that  decides to air the miami episode with the cuba episode. that's the network's doing.

Val Prieto
Val Prieto

It's not a question - at least as far as Im concerned - of who decided to run the Miami episode. Its the question of the content of, and Bourdain's comments relative to, the Miami show. According to Bourdain, he loved Miami. Thus, the quandary.

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