Mayor Gary Bruhn shared the story of his 2014 visit to Cuba as a guest speaker for the Northwest Orange Republican Women Federated Club.
| 4:51 p.m. December 7, 2016
West Orange Times & Observer
APOPKA - Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn entertained attendees at the Apopka Golf and Tennis Club at Errol Estate with a 40-minute presentation about his six-day visit to Cuba in August 2014.
He shared details of his impression of the island country and observations of the quality of life many of its residents endure under its communist regime.
The room of about 30 people laughed at the various colorful descriptions and judgments Bruhn provided, including his disillusionment with the appearance of the famous Jose Marti International airport, a meat market lauded by residents he considered unsanitary and the toilets he dreaded using.
“So I get up in the morning, look around and think: ‘Oh my God, it’s 1959 again,’” he said of his first day in Cuba. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
What really caught his attention was the residents’ quality of life. One area he visited was a large locomotive graveyard that housed piles of vintage cars the locals were unable to repair. Another instance had him come across a local who worked four separate jobs every day to put food on the table.
“He worked as a cleaner, a cook, a waiter and a cab driver every day,” he said. “So all he does in this regime is work, work, work, and he just … can’t get ahead. ... If that guy lived here, his opportunities would be endless.”
Following Fidel Castro’s death Nov. 25, Bruhn hoped the circumstances for Cuban residents would improve. But after hearing from the news that Raul Castro likely will rule with a heavy hand to discourage a potential uprising and is known for being more stern, Bruhn has had doubts.
“Although I would like to think that the passing of Fidel may bring a lot more opportunity to the people, I’m not sure of that,” he said.
Bruhn said he was astounded to see the mourning of Fidel Castro during his funeral.
“It struck me as absolutely amazing, watching the news of people lining the streets and just mourning him,” Bruhn said. “I don’t think they have any concept of a better way of life.”