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U.S.-Cuba Relations: Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap - Photo 2A young man sells used books and antiques at the Plaza de las Armas in Havana.
(Photo: Alice Pettway)

Others I encountered weren’t so circumspect. Raul, who hosts tourists in his home, called the U.S. government a bully that couldn’t stay out of other people’s business. He wondered why, if he didn’t care what kind of government the United States has, the United States cares what kind of government he has.

Raul carefully shielded U.S. citizens from blame, though, saying—perhaps not so flatteringly—that he thinks the average person in the United States doesn’t even know anything about the roots of the embargo. It’s hard to disagree with him when a number of U.S. citizens I spoke to thought the embargo stemmed from the Cuban missile crisis, when, in fact, the embargo was initiated two years before that confrontation.

Additionally, Raul laid responsibility for the long continuation of the embargo at the feet of Cuban-Americans. “Their grandparents have taught them to hate Castro,” he told me. The U.S. election worries him. With Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz actively speaking out against the end of the embargo, he fears the change Obama has begun will slip away after November.

I hope not. As I sat on a balcony overlooking Old Havana, sipping mojitos with a couple of Cubans, we chatted about our childhoods. About U.S. history books that extol the virtues of capitalism and Cuban history books that laud the value of communism. We talked about the importance of cultural exchange—and how officially ending the embargo could let two peoples separated by just 90 miles of water learn to understand each other again.

 

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