Impressions of Cuba (page 5)
Impressions of Cuba
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A hasty departure
Back in Havana, we found , Joe Thomas anxiously awaiting our return. He informed us that, despite our plans to spend two more days in Havana, our captain had called for an immediate departure. There was a narrow window of decent weather, and we had to take it if we wanted to safely return to the Keys.
     Although the trip to Havana had taken over fifteen hours, the trip home took only twelve, with eight to ten feet swells to propel us. Some of us who had not taken medication for motion sickness were beset by nausea and vomiting. How could we not acknowledge the courage of Cubans who flee on rickety crafts?
 
 Interested in visiting Cuba with the Cuban Health Network? Contact secretary-treasurer Lynn Miley at Lmiley6556@aol.com

Center for Cuban Studies
212-242-0559 www.cubaupdate.org

Cuban Art Space www.cubanartspace.net

Reflections on the boycott
Now that we are home yet eager to return — this time by air, we have time to ponder the boycott against Cuba. All of us agree that it is morally bankrupt and politically ineffective. If the goal is to unseat Castro, it has royally failed. The boycott has helped keep Castro in power by giving him the scapegoat he has needed. Instead of reforming social, political, and economic policies, he can blame the hardships Cubans suffer on the United States. Fortunately, Cubans’ consternation at the boycott is not directed at U.S. citizens but at our myopic government that cleaves to a double standard which grants favorable trade agreements to China, where human rights violations are rampant, and begins to normalize relations with Vietnam, with whom we fought a brutal war, while squeezing Cubans for all they’re worth. And, although President Bush has not included Cuba among the terrorist countries we might attack, such as Iraq and North Korea, he still proclaims Cuba an enemy and a terrorist nation, and we can’t give aid to our enemy.
     Were the boycott lifted tomorrow, however, I would fear a commercial take-over by U.S. interests that would further funnel Cuban talent into the tourism industry or give U.S. citizens too much control over Cuba’s future, while diluting its culture. With our economic idols of privatization and competition, I would worry about the erosion of free public education, including university access, and the disappearance of free medical care. Cubans are basically decent, creative people. They have the right to solve their own problems, no matter how painful. The boycott, which has lasted more than forty years, continues to punish Cubans, but it has spurred European, Latin American, and Canadian investment. Ironically, the democratic openings we experienced and observed, like the freedom to travel we enjoyed, the freedom of Cubans to rent rooms and sell meals, the return to churches, and the exposure to the “foreign” ideas of all the other tourists, including the thousands of Americans who enter Cuba from the Bahamas or Mexico, have been realized in spite of our boycott. It’s as if our government, with its steadfast refusal to view Cuba with fresh eyes, is too proud to admit its failed policies, too fearful of a vocal cadre of Cuban-Americans, and too fearful of the intelligence and industriousness of Cuba’s eleven million inhabitants.
 
Patricia Taylor Edmisten is the author of The Mourning of Angels, a novel set in Peru. She also wrote Nicaragua Divided: La Prensa and the Chamorro Legacy, and wrote the introduction to, and translation of, The Autobiography of María Elena Moyano: The Life and Death of a Peruvian Activist.
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