Everywhere except Havana

Although it seemed like we spent a while in Havana, we spent the majority of our trip outside it, traveling from city to city in shorter durations.

I think my favorite stop outside of Havana was in Viñales, a small farm town that’s latched onto the growing tourism industry. I’d imagine just 10 years earlier, it was still a quiet farming town, but today, it’s far from it. There’s a vibrant downtown area with bars and restaurants and a street where we stayed which is lined with bed and breakfast-type places.

But just beyond the rows of B&Bs was vast farmland and beautiful rock formations called mogotes. We were able to explore the farmland and mogotes, first by horse and then on-foot as part of a four hour hike, which many in our group, including myself would say was one of the most difficult things they’d ever had to do. I’ve lived in Florida my whole life and I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot. But I think we all, even Olivia, felt pretty accomplished in the end.

Other stops outside of Havana were a lot of fun, too. I especially enjoyed our brief stopover in Jibacoa where at our hotel, we found a puppy who we named Lil Taco. We kept him in our house while we were there, feeding him some leftovers from our dinner. We thought we were helping him, but when he started whining and got sick overnight, we realized we’d made a huge mistake. That wasn’t the best night of sleep I had the trip since Lil Taco whined in the bedroom and throughout the whole house all night. In the morning, Maira graciously took Lil Taco from the house and reunited him with his mother.

Trinidad was another highlight, it reminded me a lot of Havana, just on a smaller scale. We ate lunch at a pizza place, which we were all delighted to see after almost two weeks of eating primarily chicken and pork. We were overjoyed to see fries on the menu, but in true Cuban fashion, they were all out since their power went out, which was a real blow to our moral. That pizza felt like it was the best pizza any of us ever had since we were so hungry and desperate for anything outside of our typical Cuban diet.

I’m glad we went outside of Havana, because I think staying in Havana like many tourists do doesn’t give you an accurate picture of what Cuba is really like. I think a lot of people in the U.S. often forget that there’s more to Cuba than just Havana, myself included. Before we went, I thought I would be underwhelmed by the cities outside Havana, but they’re what made the trip more enriching. Just going to Havana would be like visiting the U.S. and just going to New York City. Obviously, New York isn’t an accurate picture of the entire U.S. just as Havana isn’t an accurate picture of Cuba.

There’s so much culture and so many varying ways of life in Cuba and I’m thankful and lucky I was able to see as much as I did.

Months before the trip, I wrote in my essay that I felt that the only way to experience and understand Cuba was to go there myself. And this trip proved that point.

One day, with my Spanish skills more developed, I hope to return. That day may not come for sometime, considering Trump’s new regulations, but when it does, I hope to find a similar place: rich with culture and hopefully rich with more freedom and opportunities for the Cuban people.

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Overall impressions of communism

A lot of our time in Cuba was spent in our vans, so naturally that gave us all a lot of time to think about everything we were experiencing and bounce ideas off each other about our impressions.

On one of the first days in Cuba, I remarked to Hannah, Michelle and Taylor that I hadn’t noticed any real signs of communism so far. If I went to Cuba and somehow had no idea that it was a communist country, I probably wouldn’t know. Hannah agreed and from then on, I decided to specifically search for anything that screamed “communism.”

Shortly after I made this conceded effort, I realized how blind I was. I think I must have been overwhelmed trying to take everything in that the gigantic billboards commemorating the revolution and portraits of Che Guevara plastered all over, I somehow glossed over those tell-tale signs. Sensory overload can get the best of all of us sometimes, right?

In the U.S., billboards line every major highway, advertising everything from vacation destinations to Coca Cola. In Cuba, most billboards are politically influenced.  I saw a few tourist-targeted ads, mostly to Varadero, a city almost entirely centered around tourism. But even that seemingly-innocuous ad may have carried some sort of political agenda. For years, there was resistance to tourism because the government feared that Cubans interacting with tourists from other countries would give them an idea of what life was like outside of Cuba. Varadero was developed in part, to keep Cubans sequestered to one part of the island. So maybe, the ads for Varadero were to encourage tourists to head away from Havana and to the touristy areas. But that’s just a thought.

Most other billboards praised the revolution. Seeing them helped me realize how communism has lasted so long in Cuba. People are bombarded with information that solely promotes one viewpoint. And when there’s no opposition to the mainstream view, it’s hard to form your own thoughts and even harder to express them when everything is support of another viewpoint.

Even out in the countryside and on roads that run straight through the middle of nowhere, pro-Fidel billboards were a common sight. It was jarring to see so much in support of Fidel. All my life, I’ve been told that Fidel Castro is a ruthless, terrible dictator. Everything I saw in Cuba though, told me otherwise.

We got another communist perspective at the Bay of Pigs museum. We were told about the invasion, but rather than being told a story of American defeat, we were told of a Cuban victory. I think that was to be expected, but it’s worth noting.

I think the most impactful sign we saw though read: “Patria o muerte, ¡Venceremos!” which roughly translates to (I think) “Fatherland or die, we shall overcome.” I’d never seen words quite so strong and definitive in the context of political propaganda. Those sort of words have the power to instill fear in people, which I’d imagine is their exact purpose.

These sort of things that I noticed really helped me get a better understanding of why the communist regime has reigned for so long in Cuba without challenge. It’s been so deeply ingrained in their society for almost the past 60 years because of that one-sided rhetoric and the bubble that seems to encompass the entire island.

Day 3: Meeting Cuban journalists

The third and fourth days of the trip proved to be the best for me. We were able to meet journalists, which as a journalism major, was really exciting.

We started with Marta Rojas, who in Cuba, is a journalism legend. She knew Fidel Castro personally, went to college with him before the Revolution and covered his trial. Marta was an amazing storyteller and she told us what it was like to cover Castro. None of it seemed like a big deal to her, but all of us were awestruck, even those who weren’t majoring in journalism. She even had the notes she took from the trial which have been referenced years after the trial. I think I’ll hang onto my notes from now on.

Later that day, we met with journalists from El Toque and OnCuba,  neither of which are state-affiliated media organizations, although OnCuba is licensed. I was blown away by both of these meetings. El Toque is based out of an apartment, just close enough to a WiFi hotspot to get the signal.

Their goal is to tell stories not told by the state-run media and give people an accurate picture of what’s actually going on in their society. In my opinion, there’s hardly any other journalists in the world with a more important job than Cuba’s network of independent bloggers. For years, the only source of information was the state-run media, which doesn’t provide a clear or accurate idea of the country. I hope that with more work from these journalists, Cuba can start to change.

But from what they told us, the government won’t soon become more accepting of independent media sources. They’re technically illegal, but since the internet isn’t well-patrolled, they can get away with running their website. El Toque can’t even advertise, they have to rely on Cubans who made it to the U.S. to share their stories on Facebook and hope that the Cuban-Americans’ relatives back home see them, read them and share them. But those at El Toque and OnCuba are determined and dedicated to their cause. They realize they don’t have it easy and hope to one day create spaces for debate in their society to influence change on a larger scale.

Talking to the independent journalists left me with an appreciation of the luxuries and freedoms we all have back home. One person from El Toque told us to imagine what Cubans could do if they had the same resources as we do in the U.S. I hadn’t thought about things that way before, and that statement was impactful for me. I can’t help but imagine how much Cuba would change if the U.S. lifted the embargo and established stronger ties with the island nation just 90 miles away. I think Cuba would benefit immensely from that. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that will happen anytime soon.

Day 2: Jam-packed schedule in Havana

For the next three days of the trip, we would be primarily in Havana. I love the vibrance and liveliness of the city, it always seems like there’s something new to see and intricate details to notice.

Our second day was jam-packed and we covered a lot of ground. We began the day at a park overlooking Havana where we all got pictures in one of the many classic cars that now serve as taxis.

We then went near El Morro where we saw old military equipment on display and in the distance, members of the Cuban military in training. Then, we went back into the city and met with a tattoo artist who told us how difficult it was for him and others to even open a tattoo shop on the island. For years, tattoos were generally unaccepted, but they’ve become more mainstream so now, the artist has his own shop which has pretty good business. We watched an Afro-Cuban dance performance, wandered through a community revitalization project and even met the artist who was responsible for it.

We were doing so many things that ordinary tourists to the island would likely have no idea even existed which gave us a much more real idea of what Cuba is really like.

We met so many people who were so passionate about what they did which was really inspiring. No one had an easy path to where they were, but they were there anyway, doing what they’re passionate about. That really encompasses what Cubans are like. I think people in the U.S. have a lot of preconceived notions of who Cubans are. Most people associate Cuba with communism, which is true, but oftentimes that association carries over to the people. And when people are painted as communists, it’s generally in a negative way. The Cubans shouldn’t, and aren’t, defined by their country’s government and history. Even if they support the government, they’re still people with passions, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else.

Later that day, we visited a boxing school, where we saw this passion demonstrated yet again. Young kids were there training, some no older than maybe five years old and some in their 20s. They practiced in a run-down, shell of a building with a boxing ring and some shaky bleachers that I didn’t entirely trust to hold us safely. We handed out some fidget spinners to the kids there who seemed overjoyed to have a new toy to play with. It was such a small, simple thing to be excited about, but it was like Christmas morning for them.

But when the time came for them to train, the kids worked hard, much like many others we would meet on the trip. Hard work is a common trend on the island, and in the world Cubans live in, it’s a necessity.

 

Day one: first impressions

Flying over Cuba and into Havana is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Everyone’s eyes, mine as well, were glued to the tiny plane window and those in the aisle seat stretched over their neighbors to catch their first glimpses of the island from the air.

I’d never seen land so lush and untouched in my life–an appropriate metaphor for my overall impression of the country. All I could see for miles was green.

We made a smooth landing and the second we landed, we lost the plane’s WiFi connection. Before coming to Cuba, I thought a lot I’d read about the country was exaggeration. The lack of WiFi connectivity was one of those things. But that was no joke, and the promise of a message to my parents after landing was swiftly broken.

After getting through the security process, we headed outside to exchange money. As we went outside, the fact that we were in Cuba hit me. Again, I foolishly thought that the old cars everyone talked about from Cuba were an exaggeration. But in the street in front of us, it was almost exclusively classic cars.

We checked into the hotel and headed into Old Havana the first time. In our walk around town, I noticed a lot about the strange island city. I was struck by the dichotomy between old, crumbling shells of buildings and some that looked like they’d been meticulously maintained over the years.

I saw countless Cubans sitting on curbs, standing in the street or wandering around all looking for the same thing: to make a little extra money. Souvenir shop owners tried to lure tourists into their shops and some collected used water bottles from tourists. One man–perhaps my favorite–dressed up his two dachshunds for photo ops and told us jokes about Donald Trump, which considering we were in a communist country was kind of odd to me.

This stop with the dachshund man proved to be a pivotal point in the trip, although we were just hours in. He gave me the nickname “Shakira,” I suppose that’s because we both have curly hair, it certainly wasn’t because of my dancing or singing skills. From that point on, everyone called me Shakira, and some, I’m not sure even know my real name. But I realize could have a much worse nickname, so I welcomed it.

At this point in the trip, we hadn’t bought much, but everything I saw was incredibly cheap. That was one of the most surprising things I saw in Cuba. But while it seems cheap to us, to the Cubans it’s much more expensive in relation to their salaries.

And even with as many people we saw wandering the streets, it seemed there were just as many dogs. So many dogs. And just like all the buildings we saw, there were some dogs that looked well-cared for and others with mange who looked like they hadn’t had a bath in years.

Our dinner was a buffet, which considering Cuba’s food and supply shortage, was unexpected. It was there I learned that eating spaghetti in Cuba was probably not a smart choice. From then on, I decided to stick to authentic Cuban food, which as we found would be almost entirely chicken, pork or fish.

We ended the day in the living room of our five bedroom rental house where we talked for a while. It was great getting to know the others in the group since before the trip, none of us were really friends. From there, we would all get closer and the trip, which was already great, would get even better.

Internet can be the key to change for Cubans

In the U.S., it feels as if we take many things for granted.

Right now, I have food in my fridge, a bed to sleep on, a car to drive and since I’m writing this blog post, I have an Internet connection. In fact, I have ten WiFi networks that I could connect to, although I don’t know the passwords.

In talking with my Cuban pen pal, Barbara Maseda, who works as a freelance journalist in Havana, I found that one issue is particularly troubling for Cubans: access to Internet.

Nearly single store or restaurant I walk into has some sort of sign saying “Free WiFi inside.” But in Cuba, that’s not entirely the case, but the situation is improving.

Since 2014, more than 230 public, government-run internet hotspots have opened in Cuba. Few people in the country have their own, private networks, so many are forced to use public spots, which Barbara said cost $1.50 for an hour of use in a country where the average wage is $25 a month.

According to Business Insider, only 5 percent of Cubans have Internet access at home. So for the other 95 percent of people on the island, the only option is a public WiFi hotspot. When passing by a WiFi hotspot, it’s evident that the vast majority of 11 million people on the island have no other option. Cubans sit out on the street in packs, all staring down at their phones, tablets and laptops, trying, even just for an hour, to connect to the outside world.

After Obama announced his plan to begin normalizing relations between the two countries, internet usage doubled in Cuba. Prior to that, some on the island blamed the U.S. embargo for their lack of Internet connection since they didn’t have access to the technology needed to provide Internet connection.

As Barbara said in our pen pal conversation, real change in the country overall can’t be done until Internet is much more readily accessible for everyone on the island. But that change won’t come at least until 2018, she said, when Cuba has a change in leadership and it’s been one year removed from the decision to end the wet-foot, dry-foot policy.

“But so far, things are moving as slowly as ever,” Barbara said of the possibility for life in Cuba to change substantially.

But as far as the growth of Internet in Cuba, good news may be on the horizon. In December 2016, Google signed a deal with Cuba to provide faster internet access to Google’s most popular content, like YouTube or Gmail. Although this won’t change much in terms of greater accessibility to Internet in Cuba, it is a step in the right direction.

It shows that the Cuban government is willing to work with outside entities to improve the life of their people, even if only by a fraction. In the coming months, however, it will become more clear as to how Cuban lives will change in the future.

Trump has yet to announce how he plans to proceed with Cuba, but continuing to normalize relations with Cuba is one of the few ways that Cuba can be changed for the better.

The internet could prove to be a powerful tool for the Cuban people that will show them more of what’s outside of the borders of their homeland. With greater cooperation from other countries, not just the U.S., maybe Internet will become something that, years down the road, is as common to Cuba as its world-famous coffee.

 

A slice of Cuba in America

Just hours after driving from my parents’ home in Sarasota, I had entered a foreign country.

Or at least it felt like I did.

I was in Miami, shuffling through heavy traffic into Little Havana, the center for Cuban-Americans in the city, although they’re plentiful throughout the area. As of 2012, 1.2 million Cubans live in the Greater Miami area.

I drove into the city via Calle Ocho, which cuts straight through the middle of Little Havana. My roommate remarked that what she saw out the window reminded her of her hometown in Puerto Rico: tropical-looking, flat-roofed homes, clothes lines swaying in the breeze and hispanic food joints on every corner.

I knew I was in America, but everything I saw suggested otherwise. People stood in the medians with a sack of fruit, attempting to sell them to drivers in backed-up traffic. Even with all the cars on the street, many people walked along the street–nearly all were Hispanic.

Even though Miami was flooded with spring breakers and tourists, Little Havana wasn’t. In that way, it seemed more authentic: real Cubans making a living while still preserving their culture in a place not so far from home.

On our way through the area, my roommate and I decided to stop for lunch Regrettably, we decided against eating authentic Cuban food. Hunger got the best of us, and upon seeing a Pollo Tropical along the street, we couldn’t resist stopping in.

I should preface this next part by saying my knowledge of Spanish is limited. I took three years in high school and now I’m in my first semester of Spanish at Flagler.

Considering I’ve never left the country, I’ve never been in a situation where no one spoke English. But at Pollo Tropical, that changed. I stepped inside the restaurant and immediately noticed something that probably should’ve been plainly obvious: everyone inside was Cuban and, of course, spoke Spanish.

One by one, they went up to the counter and ordered in Spanish. As I stood and looked at the menu, deciding what to order, other people came up behind us, and my roommate who, luckily, speaks Spanish told them to go ahead of us in line. The workers spoke Spanish and called out orders in Spanish. I ordered in English, which clearly wasn’t natural for the teenager behind the counter taking my order.

Never in my life had I felt so out of place, and I play golf, a sport dominated by old, white men.

But there was something remarkable about what I experienced at that Pollo Tropical. For once, being an outsider was refreshing. The Cubans in Little Havana are in an incredibly unique place. While its definitely not Cuba, the Cubans in Miami have made a home for themselves that in many ways, feels like a different world.

So in my short time in Little Havana, I learned a few things.

First, I really need to learn more Spanish before heading to Cuba in June. Speaking in class is one thing, but when you’re dropped into a place where everyone speaks Spanish, and quickly, it becomes pretty clear just how small of a fraction of the language you know.

But more importantly I learned that Cubans are very proud of their home, despite not living there anymore. It’s clear from the Cuban flags, native foods and the community they’ve created that they take pride in their heritage.

 

Visiting Little Havana was a culture shock, but the trip excited me further to experience the community’s namesake. And in just 91 days, I’ll be on a plane to do just that.

 

Discovering Cuban cuisine

Like many hispanic countries, food in Cuba is unique and a large part of culture on the island. Since I’ve never tried Cuban foods before, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at some of the most common dishes on the island and how Cuban cuisine is different from American cuisine.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, food on the island changed: shortages were more common and the quality of food was lower than before. Although the food shortages have improved, they’re still prevalent on the island. Cuban diet is somewhat restricted to what is grown on the island: cassava, citrus, coffee, potatoes, rice, sugar and tropical fruits.

According to VICE magazine, in the street markets there’s a special section for government subsidized goods. During the Revolution, the libreta de racionamiento, or Ration Book, was established to help the economy. It states that during Cubans are entitled to “five eggs (0.75 CUP/0.03 cents); 0.25 kilos of oil (0.40 CUP/0.01 cents); 2 1/2 kilos of rice (1 CUP/0.04 cents); 1 1/2 kilo of white sugar (0.45 CUP/0.018 cents); one package of coffee (4 CUP/0.16 cents); one kilo of salt for six months (0.35 CUP/0.014 cents); and 125 grams of beans (0.28 CUP/0.0112 cents).”

Cuban food is influenced heavily by Spain, which colonized the island and Africa, where slaves were brought to Cuba from. There’s also an element of French influence from those who came to Cuba from Haiti. Cuban food is similar to that of neighboring nations Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Arroz con frijoles (rice and beans) can be found just about anywhere on the island and is a staple of Cuban cuisine. Common seasonings are sofrito, which is made from onion, garlic, green pepper and tomatoes or mojo which consists of oil, garlic, onion, oregano a citrus-based juice.

If meat is available, it’s usually chicken, pork or beef and served with rice, in a light sauce or on its own.

A more commonly-known dish in the states is a Cuban sandwich, which can be found at most sandwich shops, but I’d imagine they can’t even compare to a Cuban sandwich made and served on the island. It’s served on Cuban bread with pork slices, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard.

In terms of drinks, Cuban coffee widely known off the island as well. There’s several different varieties of coffee drinks in Cuba. Cafe cubano or cafecito is an espresso drink with sugar. A cortadito is an espresso with steamed milk. Cafe con leche is just as it sounds: coffee and milk. A colado is a Cuban espresso made in bigger portions to share with others. In Cuba, drinking coffee is a social activity, whereas in the U.S., people often grab coffee on the go, not stopping for socialization.

Some Cubans make their own coffee at home, but it is also available in shops and restaurants.

So in my time in Cuba, I hope to be exposed to all kinds of new foods and maybe have some new recipes to take home with me and try for myself.

Golf: Cuba’s unknown game

As far as sports go on the island nation of Cuba, golf certainly isn’t among the most popular. Perhaps because during his reign, Fidel Castro called the game a “bourgeois” hobby, despite playing a round with Che Guevara in 1961, where they both shot higher than 40-over par, which in terms of golf, is about as bad as it gets.

Guevara beat Castro in the match by about 20 shots, although that certainly doesn’t mean that Guevara is a much better player than Castro, considering the two scored similarly to seventh-grade girls just starting out in the game. Castro preferred that the Cuban people stuck to games like baseball.

Some say Castro eliminated the sport from the island simply because he wasn’t good at it, but that remains unclear. Prior to Castro taking power, there were a handful of courses on the island. Shortly after, they were all converted into other places including an art school, a military zone and one of Castro’s many homes.

Now, only two courses on the island remain: The Havana Golf Club, a 9-hole course in Havana and the Varadero Golf Club, the only full-length 18-hole course in Cuba.

Varadero Golf Club is located about 80 miles from Havana on a 12-mile stretch of resorts, where European or Canadian tourists go for vacation. According to Golf Digest, 30,000 rounds are played during peak season, which is October through April. Pedro Klein, the manager at Varadero, told Golf Digest he estimates about 300 people in Cuba play golf.

In the 1950s, the Havana Country Club, which no longer exists, was host to a PGA Tour event that attracted the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jimmy Demaret, some of the biggest names in golf at the time. But since then, few traces of professional golf have been present on the island.

But in the future in Cuba, golf may become more prevalent. Although there is no real “golf culture” in the country now, increased tourism is likely to bring more courses to the island. There’s been talk of building new resorts in golf courses to accommodate and attract tourists to the island, but for now, no concrete dates for new golf courses have been set.

But expansion for golf in Cuba requires one thing: a demand for it. If locals aren’t exposed to the game, which is likely, considering the price and scarcity of outlets for the game, then there will be no demand for it, other than by tourists. A round at Varadero Golf Club runs $75, which is a large amount of money for an average Cuban. According to Cuba’s National Office of Statistics, Cubans earned, on average, about $25 a month in 2015. So Castro’s term, “bourgeois,” for the game, may not be all that outlandish.

So until tourism expands in Cuba, golf may continue to be unaccessible to most Cubans. With more tourism in the country, it is likely more resorts and golf courses will be built. But, what remains to be seen is when that will happen, and if/when it does, if golf would even be affordable for Cubans to play.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/travel/ct-travel-golf-in-cuba-story-20100428-story.html

http://www.golf.com/courses-and-travel/adios-fidel-hello-tiger-future-golf-cuba

http://www.golfdigest.com/story/golf-in-cuba-playing-at-varadero-golf-club

The case for normalizing relations

flag_of_cuba-svgFormer President Barack Obama’s decision to begin the process to normalize relations with Cuba was a huge step in the right direction in terms of the U.S./Cuba relationship. Since Fidel Castro took power, U.S. and Cuba relations have been bitter. But now that Fidel is dead, one of the United States’ biggest reasons for maintaining these relations for so long, it is time for a long-overdue change in relations, as well as lifting the trade embargo.

President Trump’s main reasons for wanting to reverse Obama’s Cuba policy is the human rights issues in Cuba under Raul Castro’s rule. In the years the U.S. isolated Cuba, these issues didn’t improve, which shows that isolation is not an ideal tactic in dealing with the problem. Opening relations with Cuba again would help the Cubans more than hurt them.

Since Obama lifted restrictions with Cuba, the human rights situation has improved for most people on the island, with the exception of dissidents. According to the Huffington Post, fewer dissidents are being sentenced to long times in prison, which before the restriction lift, was far more common. Since the U.S. policy change, Cubans are freer economically and personally: they can “start their own businesses, buy and sell real estate, own computers and cell phones, and travel abroad.” Cuban’s greater access to the Internet is something that stemmed directly from the 2014 policy change. In this regard, Cuban lives have improved as a result of the U.S. opening relations with Cuba.

Some of those who oppose opening relations with Cuba cite Cuba’s communist government as a major factor. In Obama’s speech announcing the normalization, he said having relations with a communist nation isn’t out of the ordinary:

“Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” he said. “Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.”

Continuing to isolate Cuba would be the wrong option for the U.S. and for Cuba. Changes in the country will not, and have not happened overnight since the policy change. But, over time with more resources and funds from the U.S. being funneled into Cuba, positive change can be made possible. With U.S. assistance, Cuba’s economy can grow which would help those on the island.

Lifting the embargo, like normalizing relations, is another long-overdue action. In fact, according to a July 2015 Pew Research Center poll, 72 percent of Americans support ending the embargo, a number that had increased since the beginning of normalizing relations. The embargo originally, was put in place to benefit the Castro regime, but hurt the Cuban people. At this point, the embargo has gone on too long. Obama said in his speech during his visit to Cuba, “I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas. I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.” Lifting the embargo would not only be beneficial, but it would be symbolic of a reconciliation between the two nations.

The Trump administration would be doing a disservice to both Cubans and Americans by reversing Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba. To move forward, rather than backwards, Trump should work towards normalizing relations and lifting the embargo to ensure a better future for the Cuban people.