"We don’t have to be imprisoned by the past.” Those were words spoken by President Obama last month when he announced that the U.S. and Cuba are reopening embassies in each other’s countries after more than a half a century of hostility.
Ten days ago, on July 20, the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C., did open after being closed for 54 years. The U.S. embassy in Havana, which was also closed in 1961, was opened that day as well, although the U.S. flag will not fly there until Secretary of State Kerry travels to Cuba to raise the embassy flag on August 14.
Four days ago many Cubans celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, often referred to as the 26th of July Movement. The first revolutionary activity led by Fidel Castro on July 26, 1953, ended in failure, but it was the beginning of the movement that resulted in Castro proclaiming victory and the start of a new day for Cuba on January 1, 1959.
Castro made that victory proclamation from the balcony of the city hall in Santiago, Cuba’s second largest city. That city of about 500,000 residents was the site of this year’s main commemoration activities, headed by President Raul Castro. Santiago (meaning Saint James) was also celebrating its own anniversary: its founding by Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago, on July 25, 1515.
An embargo on exports to Cuba except for food and medicine was imposed by the United States on Cuba in October 1960. In February 1962 the embargo was extended to include almost all imports. Much of the economic problems of Cuba—and Cuba’s embrace of the USSR—was to a large degree due to that embargo.
Since 1992 the U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution every year condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and declaring it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Several human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have also been critical of the embargo.
Since the restoration of relations with Cuba is largely because of the President’s initiative, many Republicans are against it—and perhaps none more so that presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.
In the past Rubio often told audiences that he was the “son of exiles who left an island governed by a ‘thug’ (Castro).” But in 2011, The Washington Post reported that the senator’s parents and grandfather had arrived in the United States in 1956, when Castro was still in exile in Mexico.
On his original Senate website Rubio stated that his parents “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” It now correctly says that they first arrived in this country in 1956.
Of course, many of the Cubans that fled Cuba in 1959 and afterward are strongly opposed to the new relations also. But whose voice do you listen to, the thousands who lost some of their wealth in the Cuban Revolution or the tens of thousands of the peasants who gained a better livelihood because of that Revolution?
It is also a new day for Christianity in Cuba. In May, Pres. (Raul) Castro visited Pope Francis in the Vatican, and after that visit he said, “When the pope goes to Cuba in September, I promise to go to all his Masses, and with satisfaction.”
It was also announced in January that Cuba’s first Catholic church since the 1959 revolution took power is set to be built over the next two years.
I encourage you to take a look at Thinking Friend (and good personal friend) David Nelson’s article “Ten Observations - Reflections About Cuba” posted at http://humanagenda.typepad.com/ in February.