Sunday, July 22, 2018

DEEP BLUE is on sale!! Enter my giveaway!! #sharkweek @mccaffreykristy



Every year, I avidly watch SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel. I knew one day I would write a book about sharks and share my passion for the ocean. And that dream finally came true when I released DEEP BLUE earlier this year. So, in honor of Shark Week, my shark book baby is on sale. All this week, digital copies of DEEP BLUE are only 99 cents.

Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway is hired to produce a documentary of Dr. Grace Mann freediving with great whites, but can he keep her safe when her passionate focus on the sharks just might get her killed?



Learn more and read Chapter One here.

“… like shark week in a book …” ~ Rachel H., reader

“An…engaging tale…” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“… a compelling dance between two very likeable characters …” ~ D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“… vivid and realistic …” ~ Romancing the Book

“A hunky filmmaker and great whites, what’s not to love?” ~ Lynne Bryant, InD’tale Magazine

And be sure to enter my giveaway!! (U.S. residents only.)
12 chances to win. Prizes include:

Shark Week mug
Shark Week totebag
"We're gonna need a bigger boat" totebag
"My spirit animal is a great white shark" Large t-shirt
Great White Shark baseball cap
Shark corn-on-the-cob holders
"You're gonna need a bigger boat!" blank notebook
DEEP BLUE totebag
2 print copies of DEEP BLUE
2 $10 Amazon gift cards

Click here to enter.

Winners chosen July 30, 2018.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Win A Print Copy Of BLUE SAGE!! @McCaffreyKristy #westernromance


My contemporary western romance long novella, BLUE SAGE, is now available in print (as well as digital). To celebrate, how about a giveaway?




Prize --> 3 print copies of BLUE SAGE

Enter --> Send an email to kristy@kristymccaffrey.com with CONTEST in subject line. I'll collect a physical address when I contact the winners.

Deadline --> I'll randomly pick 3 winners from all entrants on Monday, July 9, 2018. (Winners must be a U.S. resident; if winner is international, an eBook will be substituted.)

Good luck!





Read Chapter One of BLUE SAGE here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Into The Land Of Shadows by Kristy McCaffrey - June #blogabookscene #westernromance #prairierosepubs @prairierosepubs

By Kristy McCaffrey

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePubs.

June's theme is On The Road Again. This excerpt is from my historical western paranormal romance novel, Into The Land Of Shadows, in which Ethan Barstow decides to help Kate Kinsella find his brother, who he believes is her fiance.



Excerpt

Kate wondered how far she’d get on foot before the man standing a few feet away caught her and did God-knew-what.
Ethan Barstow.
Of all her bad luck. She had never met the man, but Charley’s recollections of his brother filled her head. Liar. Swindler. Killer.
“You must be Charley’s fiancée,” he said, watching her closely, his gaze dark.
Swell. He knew who she was. She nodded, deciding now wasn’t the time to share the truth about her and Charley's relationship. Instinct told her she needed to ditch Mister Barstow, but losing the donkey was a bit of a problem. Maybe she could find the animal herself on foot. But what if the three buffoons who’d stolen her horse were still out there?
“I arrived in Flagstaff three days ago looking for Charley,” Ethan said. “I was told he’d left town unexpectedly so I’ve been trailing him. I take it you don’t know where he is, either?”
She cleared her throat. “No, I don’t.”
“Is there some reason why he wouldn’t tell you where he was going?”
Well, it’s not me, but Agnes he didn’t tell. It was far too complicated to explain, least of all to this man, so she uttered, “We’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding.”
“Yeah, Charley and I’ve had a bit of a misunderstanding as well,” Ethan said quietly, almost to himself.
Kate plastered the biggest smile she could onto her face. “I think I’ll just go look for that donkey myself. I really don’t want to be a bother to you.”
She moved past the man who was a dead ringer for Charley, possessing the same angular cheek bones and long nose, the same dark hair, the same lean build as her fiancé. Her fiancé! What a ridiculous mess that was. There had been a time, far back in the beginning of her acquaintance with Charley, when she’d found him attractive and fun. It had been short-lived, especially once Agnes entered the picture. Now, she was face-to-face with a man much like Charley, but while his eyes had been green and his demeanor inviting, Ethan’s eyes were blue, almost gray, like a lake frozen over.
There were other differences, as well, and none of them flattered Ethan. He was a man who had killed other men, and Kate knew she would never find anything appealing in that.
“Hang on a minute,” he said. His hand wrapped around her forearm to stop her—a large, warm hand. “I don’t suppose you have any idea who I am since Charley and I haven’t spoken in over five years, but I came to Flagstaff to hopefully put the past in the past. I came to see if Charley and I could bury our differences. The least I can do is to help you find him, especially since we’ll be kin one day.”
She made the mistake of looking into his eyes. Up close, she could see flecks of gold buried within the blue, and a few wrinkles in the skin around the edges of his eyes. It must be her imagination that he seemed the slightest bit more friendly. Charley had charm and it would seem Ethan did as well, although Kate sensed it wasn’t without shadows.
A killer of men would undoubtedly have many shadows to keep him company. She couldn’t think of how to reply. The last thing she wanted was company, and least of all Ethan’s company. She’d find her damned fiancé herself.
“Yes, it would make sense to look together.” So much for thinking fast on her feet. Her brother, Owen, had always said she was a little slow off the mark. It would seem he was right.
“You can ride Brandy,” Ethan said as he released her arm.
He moved to his other horse and began untying the bags of supplies he’d brought with him. He moved the largest satchel to his horse and tied several knots swiftly to anchor it in place. Kate chewed her lip. She could just make a run for it. The only after-effect of her fall from the donkey was a splitting headache—her legs were perfectly fine. But Ethan would probably chase her down. And then, he’d wonder what was wrong with her. And then, maybe he’d just shoot her in the back if he decided she wasn’t worth the trouble.
The image horrified her. Perhaps she should at least be civil to the man, to ward off her immediate murder. An opportunity for escape would surely present itself.
She had a plan. This was good. She would make small talk with Charley’s brother, then run for her life when she got the chance.

Copyright © 2013  K. McCaffrey LLC




Available in digital and print at Amazon.

Also in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program.



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Monday, June 4, 2018

How are the energy vortexes of Sedona related to my cowboy romance story?

By Kristy McCaffrey

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona.
Photo by Kristy McCaffrey

Sedona—located a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, Arizona—is a place where spiritual and psychic energies are enhanced. While the entire town is considered to be an energy vortex, there are specific areas that people visit for maximum meditation enjoyment. The top four Sedona vortexes are located at Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and Boynton Canyon. Each spot radiates its own particular energy, some producing energy that flows upward while others have energy spiraling downward and entering the earth.


How did Sedona get so famous? Her reputation as a spiritual center got quite a boost in 1987 when a man named José Arguelles, a New Age artist and author, stated that a great Harmonic Convergence would take place in August, based on dates provided in a 1971 book called Lord of the Dawn by Tony Shearer. During this convergence, the earth would start slipping out of its “time beam” and risk spinning off into space, and there would be a higher incidence of déjà vu and UFO sightings. Only through the focused psychic efforts of the human race would the earth remain in place. If enough people gathered at sacred sites around the world then a New Age would begin, and the earth would remain safe and enter a new era of harmony and love. Of course, we know that our home did not spin wildly into space, perhaps because of this widespread moment of meditation of which Sedona was a major player. :-)

My daughter and I at the saddle of Cathedral
Rock, Sedona, Arizona.
But more importantly, what are these spiritual cracks in the earth? The answer may be tied to ley lines—magnetic pathways that likely hold the secret to bird, mammal, and even bacterial migrations. Confirmation by modern measurements has shown these lines to flow in gentle curves along the lay of the land. Most humans can sense a difference in a local magnetic field of only a few gammas; energetic places like Sedona have anomalies that are far stronger.

In my recently re-released western romance, BLUE SAGE, Braden and Audrey find a place with magical properties, not far from Sedona.


What do you do when a woman literally lands at your feet?

Braden Delaney has taken over the family cattle business after the death of his father, but faced with difficult financial decisions, he contemplates selling a portion of the massive Delaney ranch holdings known as Whisper Rock, a place of unusual occurrences. The sudden appearance of a pretty relic-hunter while he’s collecting his livestock, however, is about to change his mind.

Archaeologist Audrey Driggs arrives in the remote wilderness of Northern Arizona for clues to a life-altering experience from her childhood. When she rolls off a mountain and lands at the feet of rugged cowboy Braden Delaney, it’s clear she needs his knowledge of the area to complete her quest. But if she tells him the truth, will he think she’s crazy?

Together, they’ll uncover a long-lost secret.

This long novella was previously published in the anthology A COWBOY TO KEEP, and I’ve added minor updates to the text.

Now Available:
Google Play:  http://bit.ly/2sx2D0L
Goodreads:  http://bit.ly/2JgDwcX

Print coming soon.



Excerpt

The damned calf was stuck in the brambles again.

Braden Delaney swung down from his horse, his spurs jangling, and approached the mewling youngster. The calf thrashed in a mess of bushes beneath a stately juniper tree with shredded, red-colored bark. It reminded Braden of pulled-pork barbecue. It was on the menu tonight if Lewis, wrangler and cook during roundups, had been telling the truth this morning before the five of them had headed out.

It was late in the day and Braden’s stomach rumbled in response.

He’d take care of this problem and then head back to base camp—two airstream trailers and a horse trailer with a built-in bunk for Braden.

Braden knocked the brim of his Stetson up a notch and went to work prying the animal from the tangled jumble of branches. His gloved hands made fast work of the situation, and before long he’d set the calf on all fours. The animal took off at a lope, headed toward a band of larger cows, one of whom was likely his mama.

“You’re welcome,” Braden uttered under his breath.

It was the third rescue he’d performed on the calf in the past two days. The contrary little beast had a knack for wandering and getting into untenable predicaments. He should just usher it to the makeshift corral a few miles to the southeast, but Braden wasn’t quite ready to bring in this cluster of cattle, and he didn’t want to separate the calf from its mother.

Billy Lasco, his range foreman, would be up in a few days with two large semi-trucks to collect the cattle they’d gathered and transport them to the Delaney Ranch fifty miles to the south. Braden would guide the wayward calf and his mama into camp then. His current plan was to simply flush the cows and steers hiding out in the rocky hillside into the open plain below.
As he returned to his horse, a scream and a crash spun him around.

Had a steer just rolled down the slope? Braden circled, searching for an injured critter.

But it was no animal.

A woman lay on her back, grimacing.

Braden moved quickly to her side. “Are you all right, miss?”

She pushed to sit, leaves and sticks in her brown hair, askew in a haphazard ponytail. She wore trail pants, hiking boots and an ivory t-shirt. His eyes jerked back to the shirt, not sure he’d read correctly the word printed on it. Yep, he had. BOOBIES covered the spot where those very things resided, round and nicely shaped. Then he saw the image above the word—two birds with blue feet. Blue-footed boobies. Despite the dire situation, a smile tugged at his mouth.

Copyright © 2018 K. McCaffrey LLC

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Monday, May 7, 2018

INTO THE LAND OF SHADOWS By Kristy McCaffrey – May #blogabookscene #westernromance #prairierosepubs @prairierosepubs


By Kristy McCaffrey

Blog-a-Book-Scene is a monthly themed blogging endeavor from a group of authors who love to share excerpts from their stories. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #blogabookscene and #PrairieRosePubs.

May's theme is Mayday! Mayday! This excerpt is from my historical western paranormal romance novel, Into The Land Of Shadows.


In the land of the Navajo, spirits and desire draw Ethan and Kate close, leading them deeper into the shadows and to each other.

Excerpt

“Let’s head upstream and look for a crossing.” Ethan put the map back into his saddlebag and shifted his gaze to something in the distance. “That doesn’t look good.”

Kate looked over her shoulder. Three riders approached, some distance away. Kate turned Brandy so she could have a better look. Whiskey moved so close to her daughter that Ethan’s shoulder bumped Kate’s from behind.

“That couldn’t possibly be them, could it?” she asked. Appalled that the three men who had stolen her horse were still after her, and trying her best to act as if she bumped shoulders with men she found compelling every day, she made a decision right then and there. “I’m not giving up Fred [the donkey].”

“Then move it, Kinsella,” Ethan said. He pushed Whiskey into a gallop.

They rode the horses, Fred tied behind Whiskey and moving at a good clip, up a rocky incline, climbing above the waterfall to their left. They moved faster, riding parallel to the river. Kate noticed the waterway was wide and although it didn’t look deep she really had no desire to cross so close to the waterfall. A sickening feeling of falling swept over her at the thought of plunging over the mesa.

Ethan kept pushing forward and Kate thankfully had to do very little to keep Brandy on pace with him. Kate chanced a glance over her right shoulder. The riders were moving at a faster clip. Ethan pulled his gun.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, jolted with panic. She was between Ethan and the men chasing them; was he going to shoot her?

He slowed Whiskey just a bit but didn’t take a shot. “Get on the other side of me,” he yelled.

Kate pushed Brandy ahead and to the left. Ethan protected her on one side while the river threatened to swallow her and Brandy up on the other.

The three riders gained on them and the sound of gunfire made Kate’s heart slam into her chest.

“Ride low, Kate,” Ethan commanded. He shot several times in succession and the three riders were forced to scatter. “We need to cross. Look for a low spot.”

Kate started searching the shoreline. They’d moved about a quarter-mile upriver from the waterfall so the current should have lessened but Kate really didn’t want to test that theory.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It all looks pretty much the same.”

“Then let’s go. Remember to hold tight to Brandy, especially if it gets too deep.”

Kate’s mouth went dry as she turned her horse to the left and splashed into the muddy waters. It wasn’t deep and Brandy moved swiftly. The horse jostled Kate up and down as the water rose to Brandy’s belly. Kate’s boots got wet. Brandy kept moving, but started to slow, fighting the current. Kate looked behind and saw Ethan, Whiskey, and Fred still on the shoreline. She swung her head around to look over her other shoulder. One of their assailants closed in. Kate panicked. She should do something. She tried to turn Brandy around but the horse resisted.

“Of all the times to become independent,” Kate growled. “Go back to mama, Brandy.” The horse stayed the course.

Kate looked back again. Ethan had dismounted and shooed Whiskey and Fred into the river. The two animals moved toward her, kicking up a flurry of water. Brandy wouldn’t turn around so all Kate could do was wait for the other two animals to catch them. She watched with mounting concern as Ethan took cover behind a scrub brush with a gun in one hand and a rifle in the other. Enemy number one took aim at Kate. Ethan opened fire as Kate fell off Brandy’s back and into the water.

The current pulled her feet from under her and she frantically tried to hold onto something but lost her grip on Brandy’s saddle. She moved down river with surprising speed. It wasn’t deep, but her feet slipped repeatedly every time she tried to dig her heels into the soft bottom. Her hat bobbed behind her, pulling the drawstring against her neck. She choked as much from that as from the water splashing onto her face, into her mouth, and up her nose.

I have to stop. She’d fly off the waterfall any second. Her arms flailed to find anything. She tried to swim against the current, stroking with one arm then another but gasped for breath.

She jerked to a stop. Her foot was caught on a spindly branch protruding from the swirling fluid. Grabbing the smooth wood with both hands, she prayed it would hold. She was able to stand, but only a little; the water was just below her breasts. The strong current made it impossible to get to shore. She must be close to the waterfall.

Help! Help me!

In the distance she heard a voice. “Kate. Kate!”

“Ethan!” She hoped he could hear her. “Ethan! Over here!”

She searched for him on the western bank.

“Kate!”

He was behind her atop Whiskey. Brandy and Fred were with him, as unhappy as Kate if their agitation was any indication.

“Hang on,” he yelled. “I’m gonna get you.”

He detached a circle of rope from Whiskey’s saddle, unwound it then positioned himself partially in the water.

“I’m gonna throw you the rope,” he yelled. “Grab onto it.”

She nodded, although she doubted he could see her response. Her hands felt slippery on the thin wood she grasped and her breathing came in short, rapid bursts.

Ethan spun the rope above his head and cast it upriver from her. The current brought it to her and she reached out to grab it as it floated by but she missed it by inches. She spun around her wooden anchor and almost lost her grip entirely. In a panic she struggled to grab back on. She heard her voice and realized she was screaming and crying.

“Katie!  Honey, look at me,” Ethan said.

Her back was to him now. She was terrified to move. “I can’t, I can’t,” she chanted to herself. If she yelled, the force of her voice might dislodge her from the only thing keeping her from rushing over the waterfall.

Get hold of yourself, Kate. But she couldn’t. Her arms were paralyzed, and she could hardly breathe. She needed to grab the rope again when Ethan tossed it to her; she needed to just extend one hand from the safety of her barely-there tree. Move your arm. She closed her eyes and prayed for courage. A sob escaped. She couldn’t bring herself to let go. As long as she held on, she survived. If she let go, the water could push her from her only anchor. She squeezed her eyes shut again.

She’d be killed. Her mama flashed through her mind. She hadn’t spoken to her in two years, had barely corresponded via letters. And now she would die and there would be no more opportunities. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she chanted. But her mama couldn’t hear her. Neither could Owen or Petey. Or Mrs. Finley. She’d die, and she was only twenty years old.

“Katie! Look at me.” Ethan’s voice was louder, closer.

She lifted her gaze; she trembled so much that the hair hanging in her face shook. Ethan was in the water, coming toward her.

Copyright © 2013  K. McCaffrey LLC



Available in digital and print at Amazon.

Also in the Kindle Unlimited subscription program.




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Sunday, May 6, 2018

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

By Kristy McCaffrey


I've recently returned from accompanying my husband on a business trip to Thailand, and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Phuket. They rescue older elephants from the logging and tourism industries and do so by directly purchasing the animals with charity funds. They currently have 8 elephants in their care, most of whom have health issues and/or injuries.

In Thailand, there are many opportunities to 'ride' an elephant. Please don't support this industry. Training involves breaking a very young animal's spirit and the process is quite abusive and horrific. Additional tactics to keep the elephants in line are also harmful and kept well-hidden from the public. Phuket Elephant Sanctuary is one of several places trying to help these magnificent creatures.

To learn more, visit their website.

Here are some photos from my visit.





















With love and thanks to the elephants for having us.






Thursday, April 19, 2018

Havana, Cuba

By Kristy McCaffrey


My husband and I recently took a cruise to Cuba with several other couples, and we spent two days in Havana. This visit was a strange mix of curiosity and perplexity about what life is like for a Cuban.

Havana is the capital and largest city of Cuba, which is the largest island in the Caribbean. It’s located 90 miles from Key West, Florida, and has a whopping 11 million residents. Many dance styles such as the Bolero, the Mambo, and the Cha Cha were created here.

To visit Cuba, you cannot come as a tourist. There are 12 ways to enter the country—we came via the people-to-people educational branch, which required us to engage with the Cuban people in some type of meaningful exchange. (We did this by taking several tours.) We are required to keep documentation pertaining to this for five years.

Watching the approach into Havana.

Old Havana.

Coming into port, we immediately noticed that only two ships can be docked at a time. The remaining berths were in decay. This would be a common theme as we made our way around Old Havana.

My husband on the streets of Old Havana.

No shortage of rum in Cuba.

Wall display at the rum shop.

Our first tour was to a rum factory, except that it was closed, so we were instead ushered to two different gift shops. This didn’t really bother us—we’ve traveled before and are always willing to contribute to the local economy by purchasing souvenirs. But since my husband and I aren’t rum drinkers, we were more eager for the cigar factory tour. Here, dozens of workers hand-rolled the famous Cuban cigar, and it was fascinating. Employees may keep 5 cigars per day, and many of them sell these under the table. My husband was able to buy several that had just been rolled. When he smoked one a few hours later, he said it was the best cigar he’d ever had.

Workers making cigars in Havana, Cuba.

It wasn't openly acknowledged, but my husband was able
to buy several cigars (freshly rolled) directly from a
few of the workers.

My husband enjoying his spoils.

The local beer and a cola. This was the first
country I've ever traveled to with
no Coke products.

My husband and I at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Havana, considered to be one of
the most famous bars in the world. It reopened in 2013 after being
closed for 48 years. It was the inspiration for the New Jersey Sloppy
Joe sandwich, but not the one most common today. This one consists of
deli meats, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and Russian dressing.

My husband with a cigar and a Cuban sandwich.
I have very few photos of my dearest WITHOUT
a cigar in hand. On a side note: the Cuban sandwich
didn't originate in Cuba, but rather in Florida.

Cuba is a communist nation, and I won’t lie, it was hard to stomach at times because you can’t help but feel frustrated for what the Cuban people must put up with. Only ten television stations broadcast locally and satellite dishes are illegal. There is Internet, but it can only be used in city hotspots such as parks, and I wonder how throttled back it is. Families are only allowed to own one property, although in 2011 a law was passed that they could sell it and purchase another, but it could only be a cash deal. The government owns just about everything, and “I’ll pretend to work because you pretend to pay me” is very apt for many people. Schooling is free, medical care is free, but it’s only mandatory to attend school until 9th grade. University is free and it’s a matter of prestige to study law or medicine or engineering, but most people can’t make enough money in these professions, so we were told to not be surprised if a hotel bellboy is a doctor. The tourist industry offers one way for an extra income, and the Cubans were happy to welcome us.

This street in Havana was featured in The Fast
and the Furious 8 film.



The people are positive and vibrant, but they seem conflicted. The tour companies want to share the history of the Cuban people and try to redeem what Castro did (he dismantled the wealthy by giving away all of their property—Cuba claims to have zero homelessness). Coming from a democracy, many in our tour group actively argued with our guide, something I’ve never encountered in my travels. The ideals of Castro may have been sound in theory (the wealthy were corrupt and had to be taken down), but he appointed himself a dictator in the process. And the Cuban people have suffered for it.

La Bodeguita del Medis, one of Ernest Hemingway's
watering holes.

La Bodeguita del Medis in Havana.

Here’s a very condensed history of Cuba.

Cuba is considered a part of Latin America culture, deriving its customs from the aboriginal Taino and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

The only cars that Cuban citizens can own legally
are ones created and bought before 1959.
Most are used as taxis.



The United States acquired Cuba after the Spanish-American War via the Treaty of Paris of 1898, along with Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Cuba gained independence from the U.S. in 1902. Under Cuba’s new constitution, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to oversee its finances and foreign relations, as well as leasing the Guantánamo Bay naval base, which interestingly enough, Cuba considers to be illegal.

While a succession of leaders led to political and social corruption, the country managed to prosper in the 1920s with a booming tourist industry supported by American-owned hotels and restaurants. But a collapse in the price of sugar led to a series of revolts and leadership changes, culminating with the dominance of Fulgencio Batista, a military sergeant who soon implemented an array of repressive policies. Despite this, by the late 1940s, a stable middle class had been created through an influx of investment capital.

We saw only a few stray dogs, but an abundance of cats. Most are
fed by locals and appear to be in good health.

But in 1952 Batista once again came to power, and his policies widened the gap between the rich and the poor. He suspended the constitution, revoked many political liberties, and aligned himself with the rich sugar plantation owners. In retaliation to this flagrant corruption, Batista was forced into exile in 1958 by a man named Fidel Castro.

Initially, the U.S. supported this Castro Uprising (better known as the Cuban Revolution), but when Castro legalized the Communist Party and executed hundreds of Batista supporters, the relationship between the two countries deteriorated. He also took land from the rich, many of whom were American citizens. Between 1960 and 1964, the U.S. imposed a total ban on trade between the countries, so Castro signed a commercial agreement with the Soviets. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba suffered a severe economic downturn.

My husband waits to cross the street.
Havana is a dichotomy of past and present.
Our cruise ship can be seen in the background.

In 2008, Fidel Castro resigned as President and his brother, Raúl, took over, promising to remove some of the restrictions on freedom for the Cuban people. In 2013, Cubans were allowed to leave the country and return as long as they had a passport and a national ID card (in 1961, if residents wanted to depart they needed an exit visa which was rarely granted). However, a passport costs the equivalent of five months’ salary, so only Cubans with paying relatives abroad can take advantage of this.

Since the 1960s, the U.S. has imposed an embargo against Cuba, known as “el bloqueo” or “the blockade” among Cubans. It consists of economic sanctions against Cuba and restrictions on Cuban travel and commerce for all people and companies under U.S jurisdiction. In 2016, the Obama administration relaxed two of the restrictions, which allowed easier travel to Cuba and more commerce between the countries, but most other embargo restrictions have remained in effect. Proponents for the embargo argue that Cuba has not met conditions for removing it, which include transitioning to a democracy and improving human rights. Those against it say that it should be lifted because the failed policy is a Cold War relic and has clearly not achieved its goals. The sanctions are hurting the U.S. economy as well as Cuban citizens.

The National Capitol Building of Havana in the distance is of a similar design to
the U.S. Capitol Building.

On June 16, 2017, President Trump cancelled the Obama administration’s easing of travel and trade restrictions, enforcing the ban on tourism. Effective November 9, 2017, U.S. visitors to Cuba must travel with an organization rather than on their own, so one of the few ways to visit is by a sanctioned cruise itinerary.

Would I recommend visiting Cuba? For a vacation, no. Old Havana is in disrepair and the food is average. There is also a confusing system of two currencies (the one we used—known locally as Kooks—was tied to the U.S. Dollar; the other one—used by the local population—is not; this is yet another way the government suppresses the population).  But as an eye-opening experience to a culture sliding away while struggling to stay afloat on the world stage? Yes, it’s worth a look. As my husband says, “Cuba is for the traveler, not the tourist.” Maybe one day that will change, because there is so much potential here, and the people deserve better. And they do have some of the best cigars, rum, and coffee in the world.

Our traveling buddies.