Everybody who’s somebody has written about what has happened – what has “not” happened” rather- since Cuba and the US announced their willingness to talk to each other as equally sovereign nations after fifty some years of obfuscation.
Let me start by stipulating that I am nobody, but simply a regular Joe (I am not an “intellectual”, I am not an academic, I don’t have “Big Law” behind me nor any economic interest backing me). My opinion is simply that, my opinion, and it is worth no more (but no less) than yours.
On the other hand, I was born in Cuba and have been going to Cuba –which I left with my parents when I was eight years old, in May 1960- since 2002 (a week before Jimmy Carter visited the island, and at the same time Osvaldo Payà was taking his Proyecto Varela to the Cuban Legislature), I grew up in Latin America just as Cubans in the island did, and I am, first and foremost, a Civil Lawyer, like all of my Cuban colleagues are and despite the fact I have been a Florida Bar member for over thirty years.
I wanted to stipulate this to save some of you the time it takes to call me a “communist”, a “traitor”, a “collaborator with tyranny”, and worst (I am ideologically agnostic, by the way): I do feel a lot more comfortable with Cubans in the island (and those who grew up in the island over the past fifty years or so, wherever they may live) than I do with most of my relatives and neighbors who grew up in the US. Idiosyncratically and culturally I am a lot closer to my colleagues in Cuba than I am to my colleagues in the US.
And just for the fun of giving my “non fans” a little more ammo, I believe Cuba will not (and should not) give anything to US in exchange for the lifting of the embargo. This is an idiotic legal whole we dug ourselves into, and it is up to us to find our way out of it. No changes can have any kind of impact in the island and a significant majority of its people as long as the “blobargo” remains in place, so let’s get rid of it!
Having said all that, I now have a question for you all? Does it make any sense at all to pay heed to the many clairvoyants among us –the crystal ball crowd, those who, for years, have announced “Castro’s Final Hour” or the Revolution’s imminent demise- when you want to know whether Cuba has changed over the last year (or over the past seven years) when most of these self appointed “experts” who write and talk endlessly on TV have never set foot in the island over the last 15, 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years? What can they possibly tell you about what’s going on in Cuba that you cannot find out by going to Cuba yourself, as a former Secretary of Commerce recently suggested we all should do?
These myth maniacs frozen by the Cold War will tell you people in Cuba will not be accessible to you, but that is simply not true: it is a blatant lie that ANYONE who visits Cuba can easily corroborate.
When I visit Havana I rent a room at a private home, I walk around and interact with all kinds of people (I may be under watch, I don’t know and could care less), I frequently take rides on “boteros”, cars that follow a precise route and which you can hop into as long as there is a seat available, and talk to regular Joes like me, who invariably and openly complain about everything. I also try to interact with as many young Cubans working for the government, or in academia, or in my legal profession, as I possibly can. And I do. And I am often invited to speak at conferences where nobody censors me, where I ask as many impertinent questions as I want to, and despite the occasional tense moment, nothing happens.
I was in Havana this past December 17th -I was also there a year before, at the time “the new era” was announced- and uncontrolled coughing and non-stopping hiccups took me to the “Clinica Cira Garcia” for a brief visit. I could experience firsthand what Cubans (there were about 15 people before me when I arrived at the “medico de guardia”, the equivalent to one of our hospital’s ERs, most of them locals) “must go through” under similar circumstances. The human warmth and kindness, as well as the professional knowledge of the doctor who saw me, was simply outstanding. And it was evident I was not given any red carpet treatment, but rather that the same warmth and consideration was extended to every one else, Cubans and foreigners. It took me less than thirty minutes to sit down with one of the doctors. Since I decided not to undergo any extensive studies to find what was wrong with me (I was traveling to Miami the next day, a Friday), they gave me a couple of shots that took care, temporarily at least, of my condition.
Since early Saturday morning, already back in Miami, I started receiving calls and e mails from my friends and acquaintances in Cuba who were worried and expected me to undertake a full check up. It was hard for me to explain to them that I would wait till Monday to do that, the earliest I could get a date at my doctor’s office to see his assistance, rather than spend many long hours in one of our hospitals Emergency Rooms…
So do yourself a favor and go see for yourself, and quit relying on other people’s opinions, including mine. Have your own experience. Arrive to your own conclusion as to how we should react to what is going on.
The way I see it, this is a great opportunity for both nations, this new era we are living thru, but specially for all Cubans. It should not be sacrificed in the altar of the myth maniacs among us.