There is an island off the coast of Florida that has been lost in our biased American eyes, a little place called Cuba. The island’s colorful cultural history and struggle for mere existence cannot be ignored, and needs to be preserved. In fact, aside from the Buena Vista Social Club, Fidel Castro, and Cohiba Cigars what do you really know about Cuba?
It has been a fascination of mine to explore Cuba for many years. When living in New York I planned on buying a sailboat with what little money I had from working as a videographer in Manhattan, and sail from Florida to Cuba. Reflecting on this moment I am grateful I was not one of the American’s who was killed amidst the political violence that has flared up again in recent years on the island. With the recent fall of Fidel Castro that grim reality of never visiting Cuba has started to fade into a distant consciousness and Cuba has become my next destination. The question becomes if in Fidel’s place his younger brother Raul will open the flood gates of trade that have been in a stalemate since the embargo acts of the 1960’s where the United States ceased trade with the Cuba and forced many of it’s other trading partners to do the same. Raul lead the military under his older brother Fidel, and to some people is seen as more ruthless, but to others a hope to finally free the Country. The ambiguous nature of this perception will be contested over the coming years when Cuba becomes a primary focus of our nation to reinitiate trade with this lost valued resource.
Since, Fidel seized power of Cuba from Batista in 1952 he has successfully severed ties both economic and social with the United States. At the time Fidel took power through a coup d’etat, much in the same way Batista had ascertained power and the population of Cuba stood firmly behind his leadership. The United States at this point persisted to reengage with Cuba, only behind the iron mask. We wanted to continue trade with Cuba, but in order to do so the U.S. wanted not only trade with Cuba, but control of it. Our final attempt to overthrow the Castro regime was during the CIA’s big fiasco known as The Bay of Pigs. At the time our intelligence thought that if we initiated a revolution against Castro all of the native people to Cuba would join the cause and remove Castro from power; we were sadly mistaken. The support for the young dictator was still healthy, even as his country slipped further and further into an economic depression. Living conditions plummeted and the tension in the social climate was ready to be ignited by the match of a new vision. No individual has been able to take the iconic Castro’s position of power at the helm of this sinking ship… until now.
Over the last twenty years we have seen a large amount of refugees leave the impoverished Cuba to come to the United States. These refugees, in desperation, sometimes swim all the way to Florida. Once they have been liberated from Castro’s repressive dictatorship, these people have cried endlessly for the rest of their family who is still on the island. The transition from Fidel to his brother symbolized a glimmer of hope that flashed across these refugees faces, many of whom have now established themselves in America and become citizens. They continue to watch closely and pray that Raul opens his eyes or his pocketbook to the United States and reengage our relationship to become more of an open door policy. The uncertainty is clear, whether or not Raul will allow his pride and loyalty to confuse his judgment at the sacrifice of the Cuban people; in much the same way as Fidel had ruled selfishly for the last thirty years. I perceive an ongoing power struggle where negotiations between Cuba and the U.S. will continue for the next couple years, or until Raul himself is usurped of his power and the cycle of Cuba’s regime change continues endlessly into the future.
Either way, it is only a matter of time before America and the Russians start a bidding war to purchase control of the precious island. If Raul is as promising as the Cuban people believe, then I think they will favor a U.S. partnership over any relationship that resembles the agreements reached previously under Fidel with the Soviet Union. Although, those agreements did protect the country at the time of the nuclear arms race, this is a different world, where the Cuban people swim miles to get into our Country and would welcome resorts to the island in exchange for access to America’s resources.
I know that my sailboat idea sounded risky, but as a modern day Cold War ensues over Cuba, I will be negotiating for beach front real estate on the West of the island as it looks promising for a vacation rental.