Pushing The Door Open In Havana
It has been 88 years since an American President visited Cuba, a country the USA wrestled away from Spain, in a war started under false pretenses. If that sounds familiar, well remember, the best tricks are often the old ones.
Americans really don't know much about Cuba. They have a sketchy concept that the world almost fought a nuclear war over it. They've heard there's an embargo - but for Americans, most never wanted to go there anyway - and that we've tried repeatedly to kill Fidel and Fidel got even by doing whatever the Soviets wanted, not to mention emptying his prisons by putting people on the rafts to the USA.
Most Americans have seen the scene from Godfather II - "Fredo, I know it was you" - and think that Havana pretty much is now the way it was in that movie. In some ways it is. No one seems to own a car built past 1960 and most of the buildings haven't had a major repair since then either. We all know Hemingway had a house there, loved to fish and drink, though he was prone to do that wherever he was.
When I was in Junior High, we had a Cuban brother and sister join the school one year. Apparently, they had been resettled in our Midwest community. The sister knew English better than the brother. The guys all liked the sister, she was easy on the eyes and easy several other ways after a couple drinks which for teenage boys, is all one hopes for. The girls loved the brother, with his Cuban machismo he was a hormone magnet though not very good in shop class. They left after a semester, though I never knew where. I often wonder where they ended up.
I think it is great Pope Francis pushed open the door in Havana so that the Americans and Cubans could finally begin talking. The Pope brokered the agreement and probably deserves the Nobel Peace Prize more than Obama ever did.
My fear isn't that political prisoners will be forgotten or that the USA has grown soft. If you talk to Communist China then there is no reason to chat with Havana. Besides, as bad as Fidel may have been at times, if you ever read about the dictator before him, you'll understand why there was a revolution in the first place.
No, my fear is what the Americans will do now that the door is open. Corporate heads are in Cuba with Obama. They've signed all kinds of agreements. Beautiful scenic Havana will soon begin to look like the over-developed sections of Miami. Fancy hotels here, VIP clubs there, gated resorts with special customers and party elites. Of course that means the working class becomes beholden to American corporate interests. There is no one who can ruin a country's class system or economy faster than an American corporation.
I had always wanted to see Havana before the Americans screwed it up. Maybe have a drink in the sleepy bar that Hemingway loved or catch the local music scene in its natural environment. While it is good that peaceful overtures are being made, it probably signals that my hope of doing that is vanishing.