Our time in Cuba was intense and at the same time very short. Of our 7 days there, 2 were devoted to arriving and departing, three were spent exploring with limited opportunity to interact at length with local. Thus, we spent only 2 days with individuals in a manner that provided any glimpse into their lives, thoughts and feelings. Therefore, our observations regarding Cuba and its people are likewise limited. With that caveat, we were impressed by the willingness of those with whom we interacted to offer their perspectives and what appeared to be a genuine desire for increased understanding and contact.
The operative phrase in this painting is a dream that the people of Cuba and the United States are friends. In our travels, we have learned of the often important distinction between a countries’ government and its people. While the future contours of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba government remain uncertain, we are grateful to have been a very small part of a process by which people of the two countries may get to know each other and become friends.
Our guide Andres wore this t-shirt on our first day touring Havana. It provided an opening to discuss changes in our two countries’ relations as well as the transcendent values that independence represents (such as freedom of expression). On our trip to Vinales, Andres shared a story of how his government withdrew an early opportunity to learn English, offered when he was evaluated for military service, when he indicated he was unwilling to serve in Angola. While he was willing to defend his country, he was not willing to fight abroad. He found other avenues to teach himself and pursue his current livelihood.
Juan at one point referred to the United States in his halting English as Cuba’s biggest enemy. He then quickly changed his statement calling the U.S. Cuba’s biggest friend. Yes, things are changing that fast. They may change again. Regardless of how Juan views the U.S., he and his family opened their homes to us and treated us with a kindness, humor, and warmth too genuine to discount.
These brief encounters leave us deeply grateful for our time with these people and more than curious about how things in Cuba will develop.