In 1960 I met a fishing boat captain who had, that day, brought 40 people out of Cuba shortly after the Revolucion. He invited me to go with him to Cuba the next day to get more refugees. I declined but the notion of visiting Cuba one day was conceived. Forty years later I went as a tourist on a nine-day bicycle trip through the province of Pinar del Rio. The Russians were gone, times were hard, and the misguided U.S. trade and travel embargo remained in place. Seven years later I traveled to the island nation with a US/Cuba Friendshipment Caravan of Pastors for Peace. We took tons of humanitarian aid and traveled without the required license in protest of the unjust US embargo. We went as friends to make friends. Pastors for Peace has made 21 such trips and hundreds of friendships have been forged as a result, but the US-imposed blockade is still in place.
For good and/or ill, Cuba has been ruled since by the Communist Party. The people have enjoyed a certain level of health and security but have remained poor. Today, Cuba is changing. Julia Sweig, Senior Fellow on Latin America is with the Council on Foreign Relations. She gives her insights in this short video.
The larger issues, of course, include the health and welfare of our neighbors to the south and a hopeful healthy relationships between our two governments. But I also take it personally. Over eight hundred years ago, the Magna Carta gave my ancestors the right to travel freely to any place in the world. I should have the same right from my government today. Cuba is changing. Our government must do the same. My two trips to Cuba were transforming. As citizens we should have the right to travel freely and legally and make friends beyond borders. Pastors for Peace will be making its 22nd Friendshipment Caravan this July on our behalf. Check out the link on this blog.