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A Real Understanding of Cuba: Second Time’s the Charm

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While very few U.S. students have had the opportunity to study abroad in Cuba, even fewer have had the ability to study there twice. The first time I traveled to Havana was in the fall of 2011 for a period of four months, with Tulane University’s Junior Semester Abroad Program at the University of Havana. The four months I spent studying in Havana, were inspiring, unforgettable, and ultimately life-changing. At the end of that time I wasn’t just nervous about returning home and trying to figure out how to explain what seemed like a completely surreal experience to my friends and family, I was nervous about leaving my newfound customs, daily routines, and most importantly my friends, behind.

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Diana Nyad Makes the Swim from Cuba to U.S: An Inspiration to All

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Diana Nyad has finally made it. Last Monday she swam onto the shores of Key West, FL, from the Hemingway Marina in Cuba. The 110 mile trek took 64-year old Nyad 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18.6 seconds. You can watch her arrival to Key West here. This is quite the monumental moment for Nyad who has been dreaming about completing her swim since she was 8 years old. This was her fifth attempt at voyaging the Florida Straits, and she claimed that it would be her final attempt even if she didn’t make it this time.  

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What Cuban-American Lawmakers Don't Understand About Cuba

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75_support_travelOn July 17th
, 2013 the House Appropriations Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2014 Financial Services bill that included language proposed by Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25) that would negatively impact two key points in President Obama’s plan to promote engagement and people-to-people contact with the Cuban people.

As Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) explained in their press release, “Section 124 would effectively dismantle the "people-to-people" licensing program, allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba for educational purposes, by defunding the program. These licenses have allowed U.S. citizens to legally visit Cuba and experience the island first-hand, ending their reliance on the skewed portrayals of Cuban reality by either the U.S. government or the corporate-controlled media.”

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Cuba Summer Reading: Cuba 54, Everything About Cuba and More

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Did you know...

Cuba_54

1. "When Cubans are waiting to enter a public facility and you arrive, you must determine who the last person is before you to arrive was and then you are now the last one – they do not form lines?"

2. "Cuba has good drinking water, and daily fresh baked bread in every corner of the street?"

3. "Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way in Cuba. Cars, trucks, and buses will bear down on you with the horn blaring?"

Through these and other insights, author Paul LeBon aims to give the readers of his newly published book "Cuba 54" a background on Cuba useful for any visit to the island. While the book would be a valuable addition to any traveler to Cuba's reading list with these tidbits alone, what makes "Cuba 54" great is its desire to dig deeper. In fact, LeBon taps into his real life experiences and interaction with individuals across Cuba to find out "...why the whole Cuba debacle manifested itself, why things are the way they are, and how much better things could be." This mini-encyclopedia on modern Cuba covers three main topics critical to understanding the country today: a general introduction to Cuban culture, the "Miami Cartel" and their operations in the United States, and what lies ahead for Cuba's future.

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Cuba: You Can't Take Someone Else's Word for It

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Whenever I tell people I studied abroad in Cuba, I feel like the reactions can be categorized by two familiar emotions: curiosity and confusion. There are usually a lot of questions…How did I travel to a country that has been “off-limits” to U.S. citizens since 1961? What is it REALLY like? Did you see old American cars, smoke a cigar, and/or drink rum? From first glance, I also do not have any obvious connections to the island: I am a blonde haired, blue eyed girl from Wisconsin who did not meet anyone from Cuba until college and whose initial exposure to Latin America was through cheesy videos in middle school Spanish class...

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United States Efforts to Undermine Cuban Medical Aid Programs

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When John Kirk and I were researching a book on Cuba's medical aid programs (Cuban Medical Internationalism:  Origins, Evolution. And Goals (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), a U.S. government operation called the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program was mentioned in several sources. We did not delve into this topic in any detail since it fell outside the scope of our main interest. Later, however, I decided to do so, gathering tidbits of information from widely scattered sources since no one in the academic world or in the mainstream media seemed to have paid much attention to it. I also interviewed congressional and State Department people. The result was a journal article, "Brain Drain Politics: The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Programme."

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Cubanness

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MIAMI - He returns late from his job in Hialeah, with his hands stained with soot and his soul weary under the weight of so many burdens in a foreign land. His domestic problems, which apparently grow at the same rate as his debts, leave no time for him to learn his new language.

In Cuba, his family waits for his timely remittances. Here, his small daughter goes to a nearby school and learns (in English) everything she needs to be independent. He is not happy, despite the enormous TV set he bought and his weekend sailings in the beautiful boat owned by his friend, the jeweler. 

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Cuban Americans Denounce Florida Legislators’ Position of Cuba on the Terrorist List

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Today sixty Cuban Americans from across the United States released an open letter to the Obama Administration strongly disagreeing with the position of Cuban-American legislators from Florida on retaining Cuba on the State Department’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” The signers state that the Cuban-American legislators from south Florida do not represent them or their views on Cuba, or the views of the majority of Cuban Americans. “The removal of Cuba from this serious tool of U.S. foreign policy is long overdue,” maintain the signers. 
Their full statement follows.

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Cuba Still Designated on 2012 Terrorist List

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On May 30, the State Department released its 2012 Country Report on Terrorism. As we had expected, Cuba was still listed as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. But as we have seen in the past, the State Department does not use the release of the country reports to de-list a country from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. While it is frustrating to continue to see an unfair and untrue designation of Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism, the results of this report do not end our campaign to remove Cuba from the list. In fact, our campaign will escalate.

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Terrorism in Miami

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April 27, 2013, will mark the one-year anniversary of the domestic terrorist attack on my offices in Coral Gables, Florida. Three incidiary devices were put inside my office in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. The effects were total destruction; everything was reduced to ashes. As I watched the terrorst act in Boston, I could not help but find similarities but also differences in comparing it to my office fire bombing. Let me be clear, I am in no way equating the two acts, as the one in Boston was of much more significance and caused more destruction to the people, the city, and our country. But here is what I learned. Both bombings, Boston and my office, were carried out because of hate. I was lucky that no one died at my office, although the potential was there...

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