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March 23, 2016

Cuba

President Obama is in Cuba right now. Last week , US airlines announced full-service flights to Havana. It's legal to go to Cuba now.

I consider my blog to be a lifestyle blog with a heavy mix of running and travel. Today, I'm not writing about Cuba as a travel destination. I'm writing about something much more personal.


My father left Cuba in 1964. I am a Cuban American. I've dreamed of visiting Cuba my entire life, of seeing where he grew up and went to school, of walking the Malecon and listening to my grandparent's stories about Carnival. 

I have very mixed feelings about everything pertaining to Cuba right now. I'm actually quite sensitive about it. I am 100% in favor of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba but my family strictly opposes it, for reasons that I completely understand. 

When the president announced the restoration of diplomatic relations last year, I started planning my trip to Cuba. It was the number 1 item on my 30 Before 30 list.

Was.  

I don't know anymore. 

For the last year, I've gotten really tired of people saying, "You should go to Cuba before it gets ruined."

It infuriates me. It boils my blood. It makes me so exceptionally angry that I've had to walk out of the room when people say that.

How is Cuba going to be ruined? Because McDonald's and Starbucks are going to open there? Because Americans are going to be able to travel there? There's a McDonald's on the Champs d'Elysees in Paris, just steps from the Arc du Triomphe and I don't hear anyone shouting that Paris has been ruined. Thousands of European and South American tourists have been flocking to Cuba for the last 50 years. The fact that Americans think that Cuba will be ruined by Americans traveling there is sickening. Do people actually think that the floodgates being opened are going to ruin a country? It's ridiculous. American tourists are not going to ruin Cuba. 

Cuba is already ruined.

Cuba was ruined in 1959 when Fidel Castro came to power and destroyed basic human freedom. 

My grandparents left Cuba in 1964. They are in their 90s and have never gone back. The Cuba that my grandparents called home is gone.


Until three years ago, it was illegal to leave the country without permission and permission was never granted. Think about that. It was illegal to leave Cuba. In the 52 years since my grandparents have left, the reasons that they did so not only remain, but have worsened. Cuba is a country where there is no free press, free speech, or freedom of assembly, where Internet freedom is nonexistent...where accessing Gmail can land you in prison. 

Yoani Sanchez is a Cuban blogger who blogs at Generation Y. Since 2009, she has been blogging by emailing her posts to Cuban friends living in the US. She hasn't set eyes on her blog in 7 years because her blog has been banned by the Cuban government. She's been invited to speak at several conferences across the world and has never been able to attend because she can't leave Cuba. 

Americans can go to Cuba but Cubans cannot come to America, where 1.2 million of their friends, families, and loved ones have been fleeing to since 1959. 

Cuba is already ruined. It was ruined the minute it became unbearable for people like my grandparents who left, rather than spend their lives living in fear of a repressive government. 

People want to go to Cuba because it's forbidden fruit. 

I want to go to Cuba because it's who I am. My mom was born in the Dominican Republic. I've been to the DR and seen the house she grew up in, the hotel where my grandfather worked as a bell boy when he met my grandmother, I've seen my family's Dominican Republic. I want to go to Cuba and have those same experiences. I want to see my family's Cuba. 

My family will not go back to Cuba under the current leadership so I don't know if I will go. I don't want to go to Havana and walk around blindly like a tourist. I want to go to Cuba and an identity that I am tied to, but have no experience of.

Cuba is already ruined so no, I don't feel the need to rush there before it gets ruined. Cuba is not forbidden fruit to me. It's who I am. 

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