Posted by: cgratton | April 15, 2009

Cuba Here We Come?

Seeing the tropical, turquoise beaches, pulsating salsa clubs and seemingly infinite sugar-cane fields of Cuba first-hand is becoming an increasingly tangible (and legal) reality for the American tourist.  Well…not exactly.

Old cars and colorful buildings are a common sight on the vibrant Cuban streets

Old cars and colorful buildings are a common sight on the vibrant streets of Havana

Politically banned for U.S. travelers since 1962, Cuba is an American traveler’s “forbidden fruit,” an untouchable Caribbean island within frustratingly close distance to Miami.  Since the JFK era, Americans have been cut off from Cuban travel almost entirely, embargoed because of the island’s Communist infrastructure and radical dictatorship—leaving a bitter taste on the American tongue, made even more sour during the Bush administration, when the laws were further tightened.

President Obama announced the changes at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago

President Obama announced the changes at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago

But on Monday, President Obama slightly reversed these policies, giving breathing room to the archaic laws by legally allowing Cuban-Americans to travel to their homeland without restrictions, and send more money back to their families each month. Obama also opened the gates for U.S. telecommunications companies to begin to set up shop there for greater business endeavors.

Although a big first step toward forging a new, 21st century Cuban-American relationship, Obama’s policy is still a cautious stride in a much-needed direction.  For non-Cuban Americans, Cuba continues to be the only country in the world legally untravelable by American citizens.  High monetary penalties and criminal prosecution threaten the Average Joe from going over without first crossing the thick government red-tape to acquire a license to travel there.

Perhaps I am too far out of touch with the historical relevance of this decision, but making a country completely off-limits due to political mishaps almost 50 years ago seems ridiculous, childishly stubborn and hypocritical.  China is a fiercely communist nation that has historically committed hugely egregious human-rights violations (Tiananmen Square anyone?).  Today it isn’t much better, but we still can go visit Beijing any day of the week.

With a new President in office, we must take this advantage to shed the political sins of our Communist-frenzied predecessors, sins that have been dragging us down as a country for decades.  And one of these needs to be ending the—shall I say it?—failed embargo. Obama has definitely set a firm foundation to make this a glinting possibility, but we shall see if the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act ever passes through the brick-wall of Congress.

Street performers in Cuba give a taste of the exciting culture that may become a legal part of American travelers itineraries

Street performers in Cuba give a taste of the exciting culture that may become a legal part of American travelers' itineraries

I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to see Havana in my lifetime without governmental persecution.

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Responses

  1. I was really hoping you would do something on Cuba. Thanks. I would love to visit one day.


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