Encounters with the Cuban People
Over the past couple of years, American politics has started a trend of looking inwards. News anchors and politicians have increasingly been looking at what happens inside the US, as opposed to the foreign policy decisions taking center stage. With the turmoil that is the US political landscape, it becomes easy to forget about the potentially life changing decisions American politicians make regarding places outside US borders. One such decision that I was able to witness the effects of firsthand was the [partial] reinstatement of the Cuban embargo. For years, in an effort to smoke out Castro’s communist regime, the US and much of the western world refused to trade with Cuba. Havana, once called the most beautiful city in the world, fell into disrepair without trade from the rest of the world. This is the Havana my family and I saw when we visited Cuba last Christmas. We toured around this city, taking in the Cuban culture and life.
One clear place where we saw the effects of our US-centric outlook on the world was in our conversations with Cuban people. While we see America as “the shining city on a hill” with a mission of Manifest Destiny, to the Cuban people the US is a foreign power interfering with their way of life. They want to be able to be integrated into the world’s economy, not barred by a global superpower. Regardless of the norteamericano’s perception of the embargo, many Cubans see it as an act that will stunt their country’s growth. In conversations with local artists and shop owners, we got a clear sense of Cuban nationalism. Everywhere we went there, was a sense of pride in being Cuban. Even when discussing food, there was a sense of Cuban national honor. When asked about what we considered traditional Cuban food, rice and beans, the people defended their culture, explaining to us that Cuban food was so much richer, involving a wide array of meats and spices, and that the stereotypical rice and beans was just a result of shortages caused by the embargo.
All in all, my visit to Cuba was eye opening, exposing me to a totally different viewpoint just 90 miles away from Key West, Florida. #
William Freedman attends The Bronx High School of Science. As a sophomore, he is pursuing his interests in science, math and world history. William is in a three-year research program which culminates in the submission of the Regeneron competition. He is on the Lincoln-Douglas Debate, the Mock Trial, and the Moot Court teams.