Cuba was one of the last places on Earth I ever expected to eat an antelope steak, which is precisely why we ordered one. To keep things playful, we also asked for a beef steak and requested that the waitress not tell us which was which. Although both plates arrived with an identical side of mash, their differences were immediately clear. The antelope was darker, leaner and more thoroughly cooked. As far as taste and texture, it was like a cross between skirt steak and beef jerky. As the waitress cleared our plates, pleased that we’d enjoyed our antelope, she promised that we’d see many of them in the wilderness the following morning. And so began our Cuban safari.
For the past five decades, Cuba provided aid, personnel, troops and civilian services to more than a dozen African nations and played a major hand in three African insurgencies. Even at times when it couldn’t really afford to – in the 1980s, the island was spending 11% of its annual budget on maintaining the 65,000 troops and civilians it had spread across Africa – the Cuban government forged important friendships for itself and for the Soviet Union, which provided weapons and had a vested interested in keeping countries like Angola from adopting pro-Western foreign policy.