So What About Cuba?
Cuba experiences its best touristic year of the decade, due to the improved relation with the United States. As an old-fashioned soul, I express how I fear change of the country’s unique characteristics in the possibly near future.
Cuba Then, Cuba Now
Cuba and the United States go back. Way back. 1850 back. In these years, the US was still divided into pro-slavery and anti-slavery. Cuba had a Spanish colony and valuable sugar plantations, which were of high interest for the US. When trying to buy Cuba from Spain or turn it into another enslaved state, the US did not succeed. Later in 1868, the 10 Years War started, during which lots of businesses from the US arose in Cuba and tried to modernize the country. In 1898, Cuba received support of the US after the USS Maine exploded. The Spanish-American War followed and was won by the US. This did not, however, mean that Cuba was freed. In fact, the Platt Amendment gave the US political power and economical power, due to the import of sugar. Pretty savvy.
With time approaching, Fulgencio Batista became President and realized some solid changes: constructing 8-hour working days, establishing a Department of Labor, opening a university for the poor, granting peasants the right to the land they were farming, and giving women the right to vote. Even though he becomes a very rich dictator later on, I do feel that his deads in presidency contribute to the overall well-being of the Cuban community.
After Batista’s dictatorship ended, Fidel Castro gained power and becomes Prime Minister and President of Cuba. Against the communist Cuba, an embargo is set up that restricts Cuban travel and commerce for all people and companies under US jurisdiction. This also implies that companies that are of other origin than US can be sanctioned for doing commercial business with the country. The strictness of the embargo got weakened and strengthened multiple times in the leadership of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
As Clinton vouched for the export possibilities of agricultural and medicinal products towards Cuba, the country actually neglected import for a while. But after hurricane Michelle, Cuba allowed its citizens to buy American help supplies. A bit hypocritical at first, but understandable because of the previous tension between Cuba and the US. This way of working together has been keeping up ever since, which makes the US a vital business partner of Cuba. I was more than happy to witness how Obama was able to oversee the 50-year-old madhouse of strived isolation of Cuba, resulting in the reopening of the US Embassy in Cuba. Moreover, I was surprised it took 50 years to have a revolution started. I mean, it was pretty obvious something needed to happen.
According to Wola, from 2016 onwards, travelling to Cuba became more accessible, as well as commerce between the countries. Other improvements involve employment of 2 million people in the private sector, private sales of cars and homes, expanded political debates and installation of 35 Wi-Fi zones. I am convinced this enables Cuba to grow in possibly its best state of being in decades of uncertain times. It was time!
Due to Obama’s actions, importing Cuban cigars is not illegal anymore. Again, accessibility is key! It is no wonder that, in accordance to The Guardian, Cuba has seen obvious peaks in the amount of tourists it has had in the last decade — 10 million US citizens on a year basis! The big thing I am anxious for is the influence it may have on Cuba’s aesthetics. It would be a shame if this highly anticipated and awaited era of modernism and betterment would eventually lead to disposal of valuable heritage. Think of vintage Cuban cars, for which newly imported vehicles would be provided in return. Fingers crossed for maintaining the country’s authenticity. Hasta luego, Cuba!