It takes persistence and patience to work to change U.S. policy toward Cuba – 50 years of it! And we aren’t there yet. But we probably have the best chance that we’ve had for decades. We don’t intend to fail. We’d like to count on you to join us in this effort, and then join us in the international celebration that will occur when the travel ban is lifted.
Cuba policy brings together a lot of diverse characters; that’s what makes it so much fun. Over the years, LAWG staff have: sponsored a booth at a huge American Farm Bureau Federation conference in Tampa (we were one of the most popular booths because we gave away Cuban cigars!); met in sparse labor union headquarters with activists from across the country that sometimes criticized us for working through the legislative process instead of sponsoring travel challenges; met in comfortable corporate board rooms with representatives of grain associations and business federations; taken testimony from distraught Cuban-American families who bore the brunt of a cruel policy that divides families and has no heart; traveled to all corners of this country to spread the word and mobilize action; strategized with leaders of both parties on how to bring about policy change. Well, you get the idea. This is not boring work!
At the top of the list of favorite projects is the photo exhibit, Love, Loss, and Longing: The Impact of U.S. Travel Policy on Cuban-American Families (PDF). This foray into the world of the arts was new to us. Fun? Mostly. But there were a few low points . . . like when one of the sponsors of a showing threw away the custom-crafted shipping carton for the exhibit. Threw it away! But we survived that, and the human interaction that we had with the families featured in the exhibit (and also a book) still remains with us. Take, for example, Manolo: He came to the United States years ago; had children and now grandchildren in Cuba; visited them somewhat regularly until the regulations changed; became critically ill during the U.S.-mandated three years he had to wait to return to Cuba to see his family; and said, “If I travel and I die in the process, at least I will be buried in Cuba.” We visited him again in his hospital room when the photo exhibit was showing on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, Miami – his spirits were high and his hopes to see his family higher. He died two weeks later. A friend traveled to Cuba – without “permission” – to scatter his ashes in his homeland.
Now we have an opportunity to allow families to be together and to claim the right that all of us have to travel to Cuba. Check out details on our website about the new Cuba travel bill in the House, HR 874 . Soon there will be a companion bill in the Senate. This is our best chance to end this inane and insane policy and achieve “Travel for All.”
Join us in ending the travel ban by participating in our “End the Embargo on Cuba” email network (here), our Facebook Cause (here ), our “new media” tools, and by coming to Washington, DC, for the Cuba Consultation 2009, March 5 and 6 . We’d love to meet you in person. Together we can restore the rights of all Americans to travel to Cuba and honor the rights of families to be together.
And in doing so, we may just restore a small piece of the broken U.S. image with our southern neighbors and even throughout the world.