Derek Andre Captivated by Cuba’s Beauty

Derek Andre – It’s Wednesday night here in Havana and, as a group, we find ourselves confronted with the sad truth that our stay here in beautiful Cuba is coming to an end. As sad as this may be, I think that the end of our stay here does bring about a good opportunity for me to give my thoughts on a few things that we’ve been able to see over the past few days in this country. So, here’s what I’ve picked up on.

Professor Hollander lectures from the roof of Havana’s Plaza Hotel

This place is beautiful. No really, Cuba is absolutely gorgeous. Everything from the weather to the architecture to the people is beautiful in this jewel of the Caribbean. It really is a shame that travel here is not easier because then more people could see the beauty of La Habana. This afternoon we had the opportunity to walk through the old part of the city (Habana Vieja) and it was breathtaking. To see buildings that are hundreds of years old that have been preserved was amazing to say the least.

The people are astounding. It’s no secret that most people in Cuba live an impoverished life. Everywhere you look in this country you find poverty. But even with this poverty, the people seem to be happy. Everyone you meet greets you with a smile and a handshake. To be quite honest I don’t think we’ve met anyone down here who didn’t seem to be in a good mood. And frankly I believe that people really are happy. I don’t get the feeling that this is just a show for us as tourists, but instead that Cubans are genuinely a joyous crowd.

Wabash students pose for a photo in Havana’s Revolution Square

There really are two sides to every story. In the states most people are aware of the embargo placed upon Cuba by our government, and we call it just that: an embargo. However, down here it is referred to as a blockade. The difference comes for the Cuban assertion that the embargo/blockade prevents third-party nations from trading with Cuba due to US pressures. We heard the other side during our trip to the US Interests Office, that the Cubans could buy food and medicine from the states but on a cash and carry agreement only. What’s the truth? Honestly I haven’t figured that out yet.

It might be time to end the embargo. As I’ve said, people know we don’t trade with Cuba and not just anyone can hop on a plane and travel here. All of this is due to a policy that was enacted during the Cold War when the USA and USSR were having an arms race and Cuba got swept into the fight. Well, last time I checked, the Cold War ended twenty years ago, so why are we still continuing this embargo against Cuba? We can’t argue it’s because Cuba is a communist country, because we trade with China and Vietnam. We can’t argue it’s because of human rights abuses, because we trade with Saudi Arabia. So why is it?

Students listen to a lecture on Cuba’s economy from a University of Havana professor

Personally, I think the embargo is the perfect example of a concentrated interest. For those who don’t know, a concentrated interest is one where a small amount of people care deeply about an issue while the majority of people care very little. With the embargo a small number of people hate the Castro regime, and they scream loud enough to keep the embargo in place. I’m not saying that we should end that embargo, just take another look at it. Just a thought.

In conclusion I would like to thank Wabash for allowing us to come, the Cuban people for being so hospitable, Drs. Hollander and Rogers for putting up with us, Jim Amidon for always keeping track of our group, my classmates for making this trip unforgettable, and my mom Carole and my dad David for getting me to Wabash in the first place. Well that wraps it up for me. Adios from Havana.