Beyond the Postcard: Cuba Today

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Cuban officials label POTUS visit as an ‘attack’

Submitted by Gabe Laboy

President Raul Castro referred to the United States as “the enemy,” and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez claimed that Obama’s visit was “an attack on the foundation of our history, our culture and our symbols.”

Read the full article here.


Immigration Panel: Stories of Adversity and Opportunity


immigration panel group

Photo courtesy of Cuban American Student Association

By Lulu Talavera, CASA President

The Cuban American Student Association hosted an Immigration Panel, at which I had the honor of speaking. Immigration stories are always powerful and give a glimpse of the adversity many face in an attempt to find new opportunities.  On the panel were four Cuban-Americans who shared either their own or their family’s story of escaping communism.

Alfredo Valdivia, a pre-medical student from MIT, took us through his father’s journey in the Embassy of Peru. He spoke of the 10,000 Cubans who rushed the Peruvian Embassy in search for a way out. He also discussed the mass emigration of Cubans who departed from Cuba’s Mariel in 1980, also known as the Mariel boatlift.

Both of these moments in Cuban history transformed Cuban emigration; in fact, it transformed my own family’s life. My father saw his only way out of the world he lived in through the Peruvian Embassy. That day my father was 21 years old, and he decided to leave everything behind in search for the liberation, human rights, and opportunity he was never going to see in Cuba. My father was one of many who waited for weeks for freedom. Those weeks were crowded, without food, and in search of hope.

David Piñeiro, also a student from MIT, shared his personal immigration story from San Jose de las Lajas, Cuba. He recounted his life in Cuba and his lack of human rights, and he reflected on how his thoughts and opinions were always silenced. In school he was never given the freedom of speech. Fear was instilled in his family as no one can say anything bad of the government. It was truly powerful, to see him on the panel freely discussing his thoughts, which is something he could not do in Cuba.

Another student from Boston University, Mariem Marquetti discussed the difficult transition once coming to the United States. The American Dream was not exactly a dream. My own father arrived to the United States with nothing to claim his own. He lived three months on the streets in search for a job.  Mariem’s family moved to the United States much later to the city of Hialeah, where her family feared for their safety. She recounts stories of gun shots and violence in this new place called home. Alfredo’s father also faced a difficult transition as he worked countless hours in construction sites just to provide the foundation of the American Dream that we are all living today.

As young immigrants or children to the brave individuals who immigrated for a new life, we carry the sacrifice with us.  We are our parent’s American Dream. They left a country that was taken away from them however our Cuban values and ideals will never be taken away from us. This was seen at the panel as we embraced the power of human rights over empanadas and Cuban coffee.

View a video recording of the event here


Obama Visits Cuba

By Sierra Acosta

Obama 1.png

Photo courtesy of Cubadebate / Ismael Francisco via AP

Sunday, March 20, 2016 marks the first time that a United States president has visited neighboring Cuba in the past nearly nine decades. This visit is the culmination of recent efforts by the United States to normalize relations with Cuba, and begins the process of more open trade and greater involvement with the country.

Obama and family was met at the Jose Martí International Airport by Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez. Cuba’s current President, Raul Castro, and President Obama later met to discuss normalization between the United States and Cuba, a process greatly endorsed and hoped for by the Cuban president.

President Castro was encouraged to take questions by reporters during their meeting on Monday, March 21, 2016, a process never before allowed.

Although this acceptance of questions by reporters might seem to point to more diplomatic transparency, it is important to note that while Castro did take questions, when he was asked whether Cuba has political prisoners, he responded that it does not. This calls into question the legitimacy of his apparent transparency and whether Castro is simply playing the part in order to secure better relations and the lift of the embargo.

Additionally, in the weeks proceeding Obama’s arrival in Cuba, the Cuban government had increasingly been on lock down in terms of striking down any hint of political protest. Even as Obama flew to Cuba, Cuban authorities arrested several members of the dissident group, the Ladies in White.

This continued use of repressive techniques on the part of the Cuban government is one of the reasons for Obama’s visit. Obama hopes to better diplomatic relations with Cuba while also addressing the fundamental issues regarding human rights and free expression in Cuba.

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Photo courtesy of Anthony Behar-Pool / Getty Images

As talks about normalizing relations with Cuba continue, only time will tell whether the opening of trade between the United States and Cuba will also lead to the bettering of human rights and freer expression. That is the hopes of the American government, but it is uncertain whether that outcome will come to fruition.

Poetry for the Week

Submitted by Nicole Diaz

‘Cuba Nos Une’

Cuba nos une en extranjero suelo,
Auras de Cuba nuestro amor desea:
Cuba es tu corazón, Cuba es mi cielo,
Cuba en tu libro mi palabra sea.

– José Martí




Mi madre no tuvo jardín
sino islas acantiladas
flotando, bajo el sol,
en sus corales delicados.
No hubo una rama limpia
en su pupila sino muchos garrotes.
Qué tiempo aquel cuando corría, descalza,
sobre la cal de los orfelinatos
y no sabía reír
y podía siquiera mirar el horizonte.
Ella no tuvo el aposento del marfil,
ni la sala de mimbre,
ni el vitral silencioso del trópico.
Mi madre tuvo el canto y el pañuelo
para acunar la fe de mis entrañas,
para alzar su cabeza de reina desoída
y dejarnos sus manos, como piedras preciosas,
frente a los restos fríos de enemigo.

– Nancy Morejón




Madre, todo ha cambiado.
Hasta el otoño es un soplo ruinoso
que abate el bosquecillo.
Ya nada nos protege contra el agua
y la noche.

Todo ha cambiado ya.
La quemadura del aire entra
en mis ojos y en los tuyos,
y aquel niño que oías
correr desde la oscura sala,
ya no ríe.

Ahora todo ha cambiado.
Abre puertas y armarios
para que estalle lejos esa infancia
apaleada en el aire calino;
para que nunca veas el viejo y pedregoso
camino de mis manos,
para que no sientas deambular
por las calles de este mundo
ni descubras la casa vacía
de hojas y de hombres
donde el mismo de ayer sigue
buscando soledades, anhelos.

-Heberto Padilla

Varying Opinions among US Legislators about Cuban Relations

Debate continues over what path the United States should take to move towards a more human rights friendly Cuban regime.

Read the full article here. 

Now or Never?

Now or Never

A group of eight on their crossing of the Suchiate river along the Guatemala-Mexico border [Amparo Rodriguez/Al Jazeera]

By Gabe Laboy

For over 50 years the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been tumultuous, to say the least. Following the Cuban revolution and the rise of Fidel Castro, US-Cuba relations immediately began to deteriorate, reaching near disastrous levels during the Cuban Missile Crisis. For many years afterwards, US-Cuban relations were framed by Cold War politics and the pervasive Cuban Embargo.

All things considered, the Obama administration’s move in 2014 to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba was all the more unexpected. The decision did put an end to the impotent embargo, but also ignited fear among Cubans of a reversal of the current, favorable immigration policies towards Cubans. In response to the warming relations, many Cubans have undergone the perilous journey through Central America in hopes of reaching the southern border of the United States before any change could be made. Many believe that the removal of the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act (informally known as “wet foot, dry foot”), which gives Cubans an easier path to permanent residency, is inevitable and thus have taken up a now or never approach to their exodus from Cuba.

“There’s a rush of Cubans now, because a lot of people are afraid of that law being repealed,” said Lázaro Clarke, 34, who worked as a barber and fruit vendor in Havana. Recent changes to Cuban law have permitted easier access to passports, allowing for Cuban citizens to leave the country at higher rates. The Cuban government has also allowed its people to sell their “cars and real estate,” a change which has given potential Cuban migrants the financial flexibility to leave the country. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Pew Research Center, “43,159 Cubans entered the U.S. during fiscal year 2015 – a 78 percent increase over the previous year.”

While many Cubans have successfully completed the expedition, many have been unsuccessful in their attempt. Along the way, migrants must deal with bandits and con artists while recent events have only served to make things more difficult. Migrants are especially prime targets because they often are forced to carry their life savings with them and cannot obtain police protection due to their refugee status.

Considering the risk involved when embarking on such a journey, one must wonder whether or not the notion that there will be a rapid reversal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy is a credible one. The Cuban government, in part because it has lost much of its human capital in the form of doctors and other members of the educated class, has repeatedly urged the United States to revoke the policy. “Wet foot, dry foot” has been a point of contention since its inception, due to its preferential nature. Cuban exiles continue to back the policy, contending that the situation which made the policy necessary has not changed, human rights violations in Cuba continue to be the norm and, as such, there is no reason to make any alterations.

Critics, like Rep. Paul Gozar, point out that the policy makes the immigration process easier for Cubans and are contending for a repeal of “wet foot, dry foot” in favor of a more equitable policy. The Obama administration, however, has made it clear it has no intention of changing the policy. Thus, critics will likely have to wait until the next administration for any change. At least for the foreseeable future, Cuban’s coveted policy remains safe.




Immigration: The Cuban Experience

Come join CASA on February 25 at 7 PM in Cushing 001 to hear our panelists relate their stories of immigrating from Cuba to the United States.

Immigration Panel