Cuba Libre

President Obama is in Cuba! This is an historic event for both the United States and this unique island to our south. Cuba is so close, yet has remained a folkloric unknown to their neighbors to the north. The doors are opening and will provide an opportunity for individuals on both sides to finally connect.

I have been obsessed with Cuba for years. It has been on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to the music of the Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990’s. I was so fortunate to get to see them at the University of Michigan and I used their documentary with musician Ry Coder, to introduce Cuban culture to my Advanced Placement Spanish students.

To so many of us, the island seems to be frozen in time. The classic cars that cruise down the Malecón exemplify the Havana of old. We need to go and witness this complex culture. Governments and politics aside, we also need to respect their history and not impose our American values. Modernization and trade will benefit the Cuban people, but the preservation of their culture must always be part of the conversation. In other countries, we have seen McDonald’s & Starbucks put locally owned shops out of business. We have seen ecosystems harmed by Monsanto, both in the US and abroad. Let’s allow Cuba to remain Cuba, while initiating  opportunity for trade and providing Cultural exchanges. It is about the people! We must make sure that Cubanos have a voice and are not forgotten in the process of creating a Cuba Libre!