[This article was originally posted here on December 18, 2014, at the time of the original event. I am re-posting it on the eve of the historic visit to Cuba by Pope Francis, on September 20, 2015.].
The bombshell news of President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba came as a surprise, sort of, to me as a Latin American Historian. I always knew it was inevitable, and that Fidel Castro would defy death as a price for Cuba’s acceptance into the world family of nations.
Cuba has been off-limits to Americans for half a century, as travel was restricted to a few academics or journalists who went to the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida to study or report on conditions there. Under United States travel restrictions, visitors who actually did manage to visit Cuba for most of the twentieth century were forbidden to buy anything in the way of souveniers, and only certain activities were permitted while there.
I did not make it to Cuba, although my credentials as a student and instructor of the history of Latin America would have allowed me to join a group tour to the island. Although Cuba was not a specialty area for me, I was nevertheless fascinated by the island’s checkered relationship with the United States. When the Cuban Revolution occurred in 1959 I was a young U.S.Army wife, and the news of Castro’s exploits brought fear to my heart as the soldiers were put on alert all over the world. During the Cold War years we were all under heart-stopping dread, frozen with fear of war with the Soviet Union. I can literally feel it now, fifty years later.
Jumping ahead, the remarkable thing about this new development in US-Cuban relations came as a surprise, an agreement hammered out under deep cover and released as something of a bombshell. U.S. Presidents have for generations talked about the situation with Cuba, and on occasion there was even talk of easing tensions…but the rhetoric was never worth the political fall-out. Opposing and making speeches denouncing Cuba and its membership in the Evil Empires of the World was the way to go.
The lateness of the opposition, the anti-Obama politicians, is such that they had to wing it, not having much advance warning (if any) to whip up and spin the details of the issue. I admit that I may be rusty on recent Cuban history, but it has been such a colorful example of outrageous and often ridiculous US cloak-and-dagger activities that details bear reiterating before the flux of negative propaganda hits the internet and social media sites.
Wall Street will be happy to see an end to the tunnel that has been the trade Embargo against Cuba for decades. The US trade restrictions tightened a few years ago to close loopholes that allowed second or third- hand business transactions, thereby making it forbidden for a US or other international corporation to do business with another company that had any aspect of trade whatsoever with Cuba.
Far from being the end of the US-Cuban stand-off, this new development merely opens a new chapter. It will be interesting to see how it all develops.
To paraphrase Ricky Ricardo … “Lucy, there’s a lot of ‘splainin…to do.”
to be continued…