I'm incredibly bothered by the hype behind visiting Cuba. First it was Beyonce and Jay Z's controversial vacation. Then the Obama's. Then the Kardashian Klan. And now, Jet Blue is offering $99 flights to Cuba to everyone. I've overheard many conversations saying, "Oooh I'm going to Cuba now before it gets expensive!" While I can empathize with the opportunistic thinking, I can't help but feel horrified by the ignorance.
Similar to the racial injustices in the U.S., unless you've been personally affected by Cuban communism, I can understand why you don't feel as outraged as I do that the embargo has been lifted. Yes, this scenario is woven with complicated diplomacy and politics. But here's a simple breakdown of the logic behind the embargo:
When a child behaves poorly, you put them in time-out and ignore them. Eventually, after skipping out on dinner and dessert, they finally feel desperate and change their ways. Oppositely, if a child behaves poorly, but you give them money and attention and attempt to hug them, their behavior is positively reinforced. So it goes with Cuban relations.
It's not "cute" that Cuba is stuck in the 1960's. It's not "relaxing" that there is no Internet or phone service. None of this is by choice. (And if you see any friendly Cuban in a tourism promo trailer telling you otherwise, understand that they have been brainwashed.) Cuba has been a prison for decades.
Take for example the currency system. In Cuba, there are 2 forms of currency, the CUC and the peso:
[CUC is] the currency that’s been required for the purchase of almost anything important in Cuba since 1994. CUCs aren’t paid to Cubans; islanders receive their wages in a different currency, the grubby national peso that features Che Guevara’s face, among others, but is worth just 1/25th as much as a CUC. Issued in shades of citrus and berry, the CUC—dollarized, tourist-friendly money—has for 21 years been the key to a better life in Cuba, as well as a stinging reminder of the difference between the haves and the have-nots. -- Bloomberg Business
It works out that the money you (a tourist) spend on the island is not even the same type of money that the actual Cuban citizens can use. So say you tip the driver in a CUC, they likely can't even spend that on anything meaningful like food or rent. If they try to convert the CUC to their own usable peso, they'll then only receive a fraction of what it could be worth.
This is just one example of how spending money in Cuba puts money in the pockets of an evil dictatorship that robs its people of freedom and financial independence. Because if you think that the Cuban citizens will actually profit off of the tourism, you're sorely mistaken.
This post was written in loving memory of my grandmother, Tibi, who passed away a few months ago at age 74. She refused to return home to Cuba until freedom was restored to her people. Tibi left her homeland when she was 16 and was unfortunately never able to return to the Island she loved.