C-U in C.U.B.A.
The Constant Reader knows that I strongly oppose the Castro regime, and in particular, its suppression of the rights of artists and writers in Cuba. With that said, I have long been persuaded that the American embargo on trade and travel to Cuba is counterproductive to the best interests of the Cuban people, the United States, and the creative communities in both countries. If we can trade with the Chinese government, and have minimal travel restrictions between China and the United States, surely similar policies (in 2009!) ought to govern our relationship with the Castro regime. If we want to liberalize Cuba and push it toward a more democratic and open society, exposure of Cuban society to the full panoply of American culture–– (and our exposure to theirs––seem like necessary steps, particularly given the abject policy failures of the past fifty years. I am therefore very encouraged by the rapid thaw in our relationship with Cuba that has taken place over the past several weeks under the administration of President Barack Obama.
I am hoping for more.
My interest is not entirely altruistic. I have long wanted to travel to Cuba. I also have an (albeit selfish, and no doubt illogical) hope that if Cuba opens to American travel, the tourist and development pressure on Key West will lighten up, and the Florida Keys will again be affordable and welcoming to those who truly love them.
And somewhere, from a warehouse in Havana, I hear a box of Cohiba robustos calling to me, calling ever so quietly. In the immortal words of that good Republican capitalist and Commie fighter, former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, when asked how he could smoke Cuban cigars in spite of the embargo: "Some people call it trading with the enemy. I prefer to think of it as burning his crops to the ground."
NOTE: It is not lost on me that much of what I find appealing about Cuba is its isolation from contemporary American culture, and that as soon as Cuba opens again to American travel, much of that attraction will be gone.