While some snobby Canadians and Europeans will no doubt be dejected by this news, I am happy to report that the United States has further loosened travel restrictions to Cuba, making it possible for almost any American now to visit the communist island nation just 90 miles off U.S. shores.
My barb at the "cultured" is not mere jest–I am sick of tired of hearing people lament that they will now lose their only haven from "the Americans." Look, I know Americans are not perfect–in fact, sometimes they make me downright embarrassed to be an American–but the hubris of condescendingly meting out judgment on a country of 300 million people based on the actions of a few bad apples strikes me as patently jejune. If I hear one more time that Americans will be responsible for Cuba’s cultural demise, I am going to personally open a McDonald’s franchise in Havana out of spite.
In all seriousness, I read a fascinating article yesterday in the International Herald Tribune about how four luxury golf courses are planned for Cuba–a sport Fidel Castro soon banned after assuming power, labeling it a Bourgeoisie vice. No longer propped up by their Soviet backers in Moscow, Cuba is in the midst of a dramatic shift away from their failed command economy system. As Cuban authorities continue to announce reforms that will open up the economy of the small island nation (Cubans will finally be able to own land–imagine that!) look for more changes that might rile up those who like Cuba just the way it is–but these changes will be good for the Cuban people.
Boy have I digressed…
Anyway, the point of this post is to highlight recent changes to U.S. Treasury Department Policy that will allow Americans to more easily obtain travel permits to go to Cuba. The Embargo is still in place and Americans cannot just hop on a plane to Cuba–yet, but new policies (actually a reversion to Clinton-era policy that were tightened by the Bush Administration in 2004) allow Americans to gain access to Cuba for a number of reasons that have been closed off the last seven years.
While tourism is still not technically permitted, "people-to-people contacts" will now be permitted–meaning trips to take in Cuban architecture or music or nature while bringing together "average Cubans with average Americans" will be approved. Church groups will also be able to restart short-term missions trips to the island and students will be now be permitted to embark on short-term study abroad trips in Cuba.
I am planning a trip the week after Christmas to interact with Cuban’s aviation industry and get a feel for Cubana Airlines–a trip that will provide plenty of opportunities for people-to-people contact and provide readers of this blog a look into an airline that boasts some very unique aircraft type.
The new policy is "a far cry from the pre-revolution days when Havana’s mob-controlled nightclubs and casinos were a playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Greta Garbo. Back then, cheap ferries and flights from Florida meant tourists could party through the night and leave in the morning without bothering to rent a room." But it is a step in the right direction.