Joanna Lumley leaning on a vintage car, Havana, Cuba. Picture: BBC
Joanna Lumley leaning on a vintage car, Havana, Cuba. Picture: BBC

Joanna Lumley explores the ‘Hidden Caribbean’ in docuseries

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Okay, I’m not going to lie. It was an unreal moment hearing Joanna Lumley on the other end of the line. The actress, author, TV producer and activist is an icon. 

At 74, her exuberance and passion appear stronger than ever. And it’s more palpable in her latest show, "Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti" on BBC Earth.

In our chat, she was excited to share her journey into these two unique countries.

At first, she chuckled at the irony of talking about travel with the world in lockdown. 

“Isn’t it the strangest thing,” she laughed. ‘People give me slightly strange looks over their mask because, suddenly on television, they are running some of my shows in the UK. They go, ‘I thought you were in Japan or…”

This new series was shot last year.

Lumley explained: “Well, we wanted to go and see these two extraordinary countries because they are both really defined by their revolution. Cuba, only some 60 or 70 years ago, had such a rich, lavish lifestyle at the top, standing on the back of very poor people, which was upended by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and turned into this communist country.

“Then, of course, Haiti, with the revolution some 200 years ago, was the first black republic in the world. They couldn’t be more different now because one (country) is entirely communist and the other, capitalist.”

She added: “A lot of things like them like extreme friendliness, hospitality, love of music and skills. The Haitians are brilliant at cooking, the Cubans are not so brilliant.”

Last week’s episode was about Cuba, which she explored by horse and cart. Havana, more specifically the back streets, made for an interesting outing. She also visited a boxing gym, Hemingway’s favourite beach and Fidel Castro’s hometown, Santiago de Cuba, which is preparing for the 60th Anniversary of the Great Revolution. 

Joanna Lumley watching a street performance of rumba band, Matanzas, Cuba. Picture: BBC

In taking viewers through the streets of Cuba, she revisited its politics.

Tonight, we get to see Lumley in Haiti, which is still recovering from the earthquake.

Lumley shared: “The one thing that struck me, which was so extraordinary, this great island, Labadee. It’s a resort. It has been turned into a paradise-like Disney World.”

She also dropped by Cap-Haitien and got to chat with the locals, off-camera, though, as it was not safe for them. 

“The kids I spoke to have been sleeping on the streets. A lot of the population is illiterate. There’s a lot of corruption. It is a very difficult country to embrace.”

Lumley added: “Cuba and Haiti are two of the poorest, most challenging countries I have ever visited but they’ve given me some of the best experiences and I’ve met fabulous people. Would you want to visit it? Of course, if you’re adventurous. It’s not easy, but then travelling often isn’t easy.”

"Hidden Caribbean: Havana to Haiti" airs on BBC Earth (DStv channel 184) at 7pm on Wednesday, June 3. 

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