Donald Trump sucks.
I just had to get that off of my chest. I’m particularly perturbed with our tangerine-colored joke of a leader, because he has now made it even harder for Americans to travel to the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Two days after I departed Cuba most recently, a ban was issued on travel to the country. The reason for this ban was to deliver a crushing blow to Cuba’s tourism industry that is majorly run by the Cuban government. Why would our government want to cause such insult to Cuba? The reason is that the American government has had strained ties with Cuba for the past 50 years. Opposition of the way the Cuban government ruled and governed its people led to a long-standing embargo that was lifted by President Barack Obama in 2016. The lifting of the embargo ushered in American tourists in droves. The number of American tourists to Cuba increased from a little over 100,000 visitors in 2016 to over 800,000 in 2018. In a very short amount of time, Americans became the second largest tourist group to Cuba, just behind Canadians.
This new influx of American tourists was huge boost to Cuba’s growing tourism industry. Most importantly, it was incredibly beneficial to the many new entrepreneurs that have hopes of bettering their financial situations by capitalizing on tourism. Cuba’s tourism industry has historically been controlled by the government, with the revenue going towards funding the country’s military and other government entities, which is one of the reasons behind the travel ban. But the ban has so many other implications than decreasing the amount of American dollars that are given to the Cuban government. The ban on American tourism also mean less money in the hands of hardworking Cubans who rely on tourism to supplement their income and help provide for their families. These are people who have immense pride in their country and culture and want to share it with visitors. The US government cites on of the main reasons for the ban as being punitive action for violation of the rights of citizens by the Cuban government, but this ban is adding more insult to injury by taking away the main means of income for many Cubans that work in tourism.
From my travels to Cuba, I’ve developed an immense love for the country and its people. I can easily call Cuba the greatest place I have ever been. I have never experienced a place where I’ve felt completely comfortable and never once questioned my safety. I’ve gotten rides from regular people who’ve happened to stop while I was struggling to hail a taxi. I’ve had beautiful conversations with strangers on the street that want nothing from me but a few minutes to talk. I’ve found myself lost and had to ask for directions from random people who have stopped what they were doing to walk blocks with me to make sure that I found my way. I’ve met people who didn’t have a lot, but were more than willing to share with me the little that they had. Cuba is a place where I feel a since of belonging. I’ve been told that I easily blend in, only being recognized as a foreigner when I speak Spanish with an accent. People don’t separate themselves by color, so the feeling of being seen first as a black person before being seen as a person, doesn’t exist. And contrary to popular belief, people are genuinely happy. Do they have grievances and things they wish would change? Yes. Do they agree with their government completely? No. But from what I have observed, people are happier and more carefree than the people I’m around every day at home.
Hopefully the ban will not last. November 2020 is quickly approaching (thank God!) and prayerfully, we’ll elect a mentally stable, competent, and rational leader that will realize that building bridges is more important than building walls and will start to mend the rocky relationship we have with Cuba. In the meantime, you’ll still catch me in Havana. Since America is a free country, this American will freely go WHEREVER she pleases.