Should I travel to Cuba?

Many Americans who’ve long wanted to visit Cuba were delighted when President Obama announced America was “changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.”

But the excitement was short-lived.

Some people thought airlines would start adding Miami-Havana flights right away. That would be just the first pairing; soon to follow would be flights from Newark, Boston and Dallas.

The flights haven’t started, and it’s unknown when they will. But they will start — we just don’t know when.

The appeal of going to Cuba varies from person to person. Some just want to go because it’s close. Some want to go because it’s been a forbidden destination their entire life. Some want to see all those cars from the 1950s and 1960s that are so “Cuban,” even though they were made in America. Some want to go because it’s a cheap place to visit. And I’m sure there’s a group that wants to go for the cigars.

But is going to Cuba the right thing to do?

Americans have been visiting Cuba even with the official ban in existence. How, you ask? There are the sanctioned ways, and then there are — ahem — the unsanctioned ways.

In the past, when Americans would go to Canada and then book a non-stop flight from Canada to Cuba and back, Cuba wouldn’t stamp the U.S. passport. So when an American’s passport was checked upon re-entering the U.S., it looked as if the person had only gone to Canada.

No longer. Cuba recently started stamping U.S. passports as a matter of policy.

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Bottom line: General tourist travel from the U.S. to Cuba is still prohibited.

Let’s talk politics

If you listen to people like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, whose own parents fled from Cuba, you’ll never go to Cuba. Shortly after the President’s announcement on developing better relations with Cuba, Rubio proclaimed, “This change is entirely predicated upon the false notion that engagement alone automatically leads to freedom.”

In the same article, Rubio equates improving relations with Cuba “to a decision made decades ago to normalize relations with China. The move helped boost China’s economic opportunities, and the country has grown into the world’s second largest economy.”

What Rubio conveniently omits, however, is the fact that it was a Republican president, Richard Nixon, who went to China in 1972 to begin opening up relations with China.

Note: here comes cynicism. It’s amazing how these brilliant politicians (I’m giving Rubio the benefit of the doubt) can recall only the facts that they want and not the ones that hurt their own case.

Why I want to go

I’m one of those people who would like to visit Cuba because I’ve never been there. Sure, I could probably get a license as a freelance journalist to write a story. But, I would rather go as a tourist and be able to see the countryside and the locals as they are, not as the people in power want me to see them.

And I think that the average Cuban, if such a person exists, would like to show us their country. I’ll bet that the workers are industrious, just like the ones I see in Mexico. They’re probably very proud of what they do; they enjoy cooking and sharing their foods, and they’ll tell you a story if you have time to listen.

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After all, they’re people, just like you and me. And who wouldn’t want to visit a place with wonderful weather, great food and friendly people?

Would you visit Cuba?

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Stuart Gustafson

Stuart Gustafson is a writer, world traveler and professional speaker. He's channeled his love of travel into writing travel-based mystery novels.

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