I am so excited by Obama’s Announcement that we will begin to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba. My people-to-people trip this January confirmed for me, more than ever, that American policies were not only useless and outdated, but also harming the Cuban people and our democratic efforts there.
Come on, we’ve been doing this since 1961. Einstein said that insanity was doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. Finally, a SANE policy!
When I left for Cuba, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that those who had long been oppressed in Cuba might have a completely different attitude than those of us who grew up in Miami. I expected to meet a lot of Castro-loving communists and what I encountered was a lot of intelligent, thoughtful people who were not brainwashed at all (or particularly in love with the Castros either).
Time and again Cubans told me that they needed America to end the embargo, so that their own government could stop using us (USA) as an excuse. They knew that their government did not want to take responsibility for their failed economic policies or ease up on censorship, etc. We have allowed ourselves to be scapegoats for the Castro regime for decades out of stubborn pride. If you want to create a democratic society, you need to engage with them, not ignore them. Since when has shutting someone out ever helped to build a relationship?
Even though we have a long way to go, this is such a positive step, which I have been expecting for some time. In February, Reuters reported that most Americans were now overwhelmingly for opening the relationship with Cuba and ending the embargo. Especially crucial (to politicians courting Florida voters) is that most Cuban-Americans have changed their mind about the embargo. Though Cubans of my grandfather’s era may have thought it was the right plan, my mom’s generation and my own, who have grown up in the U.S., can clearly see how this policy has failed.
There are no doubt those ignorant, racist, Fox-News-watching, right-wingers who will think this means that we are supporting communism or opening up our borders to a flood of immigrants who will “take our jobs” or whatever else they might be spouting these days (edit: just saw the moron Rubio is up in arms again ON Fox News; god are they predictable). What they may not realize is that America’s wet-foot/dry-foot policy with Cubans has always left immigration open to them. Cubans have free education and are highly educated people who have worked hard and found success in the U.S.
Besides, if we can make Cuba a better, freer place for them to live, Cubans will not want to come to the U.S. anyway. Cubans are very patriotic people! The only reason they all want to leave (many people told me this and the line for visa interviews was huge) is because their economy is so bad and their freedom limited. These new policies will help get Cubans access to communications tools like the Internet, which will allow them freedom of information and stop letting the regime dictate what they know.
My dear grandfather died in September, having never returned to his beloved home. In the eulogy I wrote for his funeral, I quoted what it is basically the national song of Cuba, “Guantanamera”. In honor of my grandfather and this positive outlook on the future of U.S.-Cuba relations, I will include one of the videos I took at a high school in Cuba.
Here the teachers, students, and we lucky visitors joined in a rousing rendition of this traditional song. Please forgive my singing along with the chorus.