Sunday, February 27, 2011

Freedom to Travel to Cuba

As staunch supporter of Barack Obama, his policies on Cuba is one of the areas where he and I part company. During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to lift restrictions on travel to Cuba and even promised to lift the trade embargo. I'm now feeling let down because he seems to be trying too hard to please the very people who, almost unanimously, have such a fervent desire to see him fail as president.

I proudly state on my résumé that I studied Spanish at the University of Havana, only having to explain (proudly) when challenged during job interviews that I was there “legally” through Global Exchange, based in San Francisco, CA. Global Exchange was licensed by the U.S. State Department to send people to Cuba for studies in Spanish, music and dance, history and culture, and even sponsored bicycle tours, among other activities. This was years before the George Bush administration tightened restrictions on travel to Cuba, causing Global Exchange to lose its license from the State Department in sponsoring those educational and culturally enlightning trips.

In Cuba, I saw first-hand how U.S. government policies are hurting innocent men, women, and children, who feel no animosity whatsoever towards American people, much more than it is hurting the Castro administration. As a visitor, I felt nothing but love and admiration from ordinary, everyday Cuban citizens who boast 100% literacy and universal health-care in their country.

There was Luisa whom I befriended only for the purpose of learning and experiencing life from an Afro-Cuban perspective who did not waste any time begging me to take her home to the United States. And it was not because she was in love, not hardly! She was economically desperate and tired of being hungry. There were times I wanted a bite to eat, and casually took her along to a local fast-food place called El Rápido (meaning Fast), which is similar to Church's Chicken. To her, this was luxury.

The good news is that Obama lifted “some” of the restrictions to travel to Cuba.


  1. Bill you are soooo right-on! Our newest president is under the sway of the Miami Cubans, like the previous ones were. It's really funny how such a small population can have so much influence on the White House and we, blacks, are still fighting for what's rightfully ours!

    Lionel Riley

  2. Didn't realize Pres. Obama was falling prey to the lobby on this issue. Disappointing, really. I was in Cuba about 8 years ago and fell in love with the beauty and the people. I'd been introduced to Cuba's rich culture and history through my studies of Caribbean literature. When I had the chance to travel there by way of my current home in the Netherlands, I jumped at it. I have no regrets. I mention in my memoir that the Cubans claimed me as one of their own, something I felt Americans had done to the same extent. Bill, I love what you're doing with this blog. Before entering graduate school and taking a course - with a Dutch professor no less - on la literatura afro caribena, I had no idea that there were blacks in Cuba, Puerto Rico or the DR. BA's have so much in common with latinos, especially black latinos it's hard to understand why we don't know more about that culture. In fact, the latino culture is one thing I sorely miss over here in the Netherlands. Oh, and keep up your self-study. I applaud your efforts to let nothing stop you from achieving your dream.


Anonymous comments will be ignored and deleted.