Hindsight is 20/20. That’s why I pat myself on the back and appreciate my friend’s excited persistence to take our trip to Cuba this past February, because…45 is TRIPPIN. Yes, I’m talking about the recent restrictions the Trump administration plans to implement regarding travel to this lovely little island that for the past five decades has been America’s forbidden fruit.
Perhaps international travel isn’t really your thing or maybe Cuba doesn’t peak your curiosity, but there’s a lot of hoopla about the island that sits ninety miles from the U.S. border. No worries, I’ll fill you in. Late 2014, President Obama and Cuban president Raul Castro (brother of infamous Fidel) announced plans to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries, which translated to major changes regarding restrictions to travel and commerce. Long story short, a favor for a favor happened. We let some prisoners go, they let some prisoners go, travel restrictions were eased on our end, Internet access was increased and the U.S. dollar got shown a lil’ love on their end and the rest is travel history. Sorta.
After President Obama himself visited Cuba in 2016, he gave the green light and the flood gates to Cuban travel were opened. While tourism was still not allowed per se, travel restrictions to Cuba were eased and Americans were able to travel via “people to people” educational trips along with a list of other things that made visiting the country much easier. This meant that Americans were now able to travel on their own to Cuba without getting special permission from the U.S. government. Direct flights to Cuba from multiple U.S. cities started popping up, AirBnB opened a slew of homes to its database, and with a little research, you could plan your own itinerary and not worry about spending an arm and a leg on an expensive tour. The lifting of the embargo essentially allowed Americans to get a “more authentic Cuban cultural experience while promoting small business entrepreneurship amongst Cubans who would benefit from increased travel, inevitably relying less on the Cuban government.” Seems like a win-win for everybody right?
Fast-forward to life post-Trump. The current presidency plans to reverse Obama’s executive orders and once again tighten restrictions to Cuba. So while this doesn’t mean you can’t go, it does mean that your trip will likely be more expensive and less spur-of-the-momenty. The new ban prohibits “people to people travel” outside of an organized group and it also bans many restaurants and hotels that were run by the Cuban government. This basically means that if you want to go to Cuba, you’ll probably have to travel with an agency and your navigation through the country may be more restrictive than the recent posts on Instagram that us travel enthusiasts continue to drool over. I think it’s also worth noting that under president Obama, records weren’t really policed regarding your interactions in Cuba, although officially you were expected to keep documentation of your trip and itinerary for at least five years. The current administration has said the law regarding Cuban travel will be strictly enforced, including routine audits. Chile, boo.
Finally, let me put this out there because I don’t want any drama from my Cuban cousins, (I say that word with loose affection). I know the political regime in Cuba has and still is somewhat of a taboo topic to discuss with us Americans. Never the one to culturally appropriate, I understand that memories of exile run deep and family association with various aspects of the revolution are not easily forgotten. I also recognize that heightened travel from Americans has a direct impact on the current Cuban infrastructure. With all that being said I will tell you most Americans who’ve traveled to the country LOVE Cuba and honestly believe whatever happened in the past is in the past. That was the inspiration behind President Obama’s reasoning for lifting the embargo in the first place.
Black Americans specifically have an affinity for Cuba because of its deep ties to the African diaspora as a result of the slave trade. Surprisingly, Cuba has a very rich and prominent Afro-Cuban culture. (Yep, there’s your little known Black History fact from your girl. I got you boo, I got you.)
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cuba and it will always have a special place in my heart. I’m genuinely really glad I had a chance to visit, it was quite an experience. I’ll write another blog post on my actual trip if you guys are interested. So if Cuba isn’t on your travel list, it needs to be. Round up your travel crew, do your research, get your coins together, and book your trip, like yesterday. Like, forreal. As for now, the rule change is not quite official but is said to be in the works. Plus you never know with 45…you never know.
Toya, In Wonderland