Cuba Whispers Behind the Slogans

On Castro's isle, '53 Chevys, boom boxes and American dreams

"The minimizing of entry red tape reveals that you are expected and welcome to this land of gorgeous adventure and the limber elbow," notes the 1938 Blue Guide to Cuba in summoning Americans to the nearby island. Nowadays, of course, the situation is different. For more than two decades, Cuba has been virtually off limits to U.S. citizens. Recently, however, TIME Contributor Pico Iyer was able to spend roughly three weeks as a tourist on Fidel Castro's island on two separate trips. His impressions:

The studio apartment is hidden away amid the rambling old Mafia hotels and quiet leafy parks of...