It's not that hard to find this flag flying around the Southeast United States. I've been to a place called Miami, and have even been to Little Havana. Maria's uncle came to Miami in 1961 and lived in the United States for about 50 years - he never bothered to learn a lick of English; he didn't have to.
90 miles due south from Key West is a small island by the name of Cuba, but it may as well be on the other side of the moon. 90 miles isn't that much - I drive almost that far every day on a round-trip to work and back. But there is a titanic political divide that has built up a barrier between there and here.
"The Pope is a Communist", I have been told in recent days. "Obama is a socialist" has been the clarion cry for years. "They're putting money in Fidel's Pocket" is now the latest and greatest.
But are we really? This might have made sense a half-century ago, but does it even matter now? On 7 February 1962, President Kennedy instituted an embargo on all imports and exports to Cuba. But it's been mostly symbolic - other than the blockade during the Missile Crisis, we've never actually enforced such a thing, nor prevented trade by other countries.
In the ensuing decades, the countries that initially stood with us have slowly withered away. I can drive 6 hours now and buy all the Cuban goods I want. (Montreal). I can even get on a plane there with an American passport and travel to Havana. The tourist districts on the island see many thousands of visitors every year from both Eastern and Western Europe. I couldn't confirm it, but I want to say only Israel is on the embargo list with us these days.
We never fought a war with Castro, although the Bay of Pigs came close. More than a century ago though, we did. Cuba became an American possession after the Spanish-American war of 1898....but only for a handful of years. We gave back their independence in 1902 and have maintained a generally uneasy relationship with them ever since.
After the revolution in 1961, thousands of Cubans fled the regime. Some enemies of Castro, some intellectuals and intelligentsia, but the majority of them were "ordinary" folks who were smart enough to see what was going to happen. This included a young couple from the city of Cienfuegos and many extended members of their families; I eventually married one of their descendants.
A recent news story noted "elderly Cuban exiles" protesting in Miami. This is what I have a problem with. But it's a gray area like many other things in this country. Exile is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1a : the state or a period of forced absence from one's country or home
1b : the state or a period of voluntary absence from one's country or home
2 : a person who is in exile
While some folks were forcibly expelled, the vast majority of them did leave voluntarily. I understand that they hoped to return one day, but after a half-century?
Let me ask a rhetorical question of said exiles...Did you take the oath? Did you renounce your citizenship to everyone else and become Americans? Because, IMHO, that changes the rules somewhat.
But nevertheless...it's a good thing. Isolationism doesn't work; it's been proven again and again throughout history. My recent example has actually been the pope. John Paul II was instrumental in forcing open Eastern Europe in the 1980s....the Soviet Union fell by 1991. (Oh, he wasn't the only reason, but you can say he contributed.) The Castro brothers are old, like those in the United States that still oppose them. One day, perhaps soon, the baton will be passed and then things will really start to change.
As for me...I hope to post a blog from Havana some day.