by: John Rodriguez
Since President Obama lifted the travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba in 2009, there has been an influx of travelers from the U.S visiting the island. An estimated 400,000 passengers will fly to Cuba from the United States this year, according to economists and travel agents. The estimation is four times higher than the number of travels before the restrictions began 50 years ago and in 2008. What is interesting though isn’t the rising number of travelers but what is being taken with the travelers to Cuba.
Visitors from the United States are venturing to the island and bring with them cash and bundles of goods containing milk powder, vitamins, bouillon cubes to aid against Cuba’s economic troubles the embargo which impacted the country’s economy. With the items being brought in, travelers are providing for relatives and giving imported items to retailers. The introduction and handing over of items to retailers enables the country’s people to reinvigorate its feeble economy. A plan backed by President Raul Castro.
With supplies coming into the country via relatives living abroad provides for the people of the country suffering under the economic crisis, opponents against the importing of goods like Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican whose parents were Cuban exiles, finds the traveling importation to be “perhaps the single largest source of revenue to the most repressive government in the region,” claiming that the provisions being provided allows for Castro’s government to remain in power. Since Obama slowly pulled back the restrictions between the United States and Cuba, Americans have been allowed to send money to help small private businesses within Cuba by sending up to $2,000.
While the recent removal of restrictions is strengthening Cuba’s economy, it is also benefitting communication between relatives living separately between the two countries. The émigrés who left Cuba during Fidel Castro’s revolution back in 1959 are reconnecting with surviving family members living on the island. Through text messaging, telephones, and emails distant relatives are keeping touch and “it is helping destroy the myth of separation” between 1.8 million Cuban-American and islanders, a claim made by a Professor Katrin Hansing at City University of New York.
The availability to travel is also appealing to Cubans who left Cuba for America since their ability to return home is more open and possible. Being able to return to their country of origin also gives them benefits of low costs. While everything in America costs money to function, in Cuba former Cuban immigrants are using the country’s cheap costs to get check-ups from Doctors due to its health care system. In a New York Times article, Leonel Morales, 34, left Cuba three years ago and returned back in February in order to be inducted into the country’s practiced religion, Santeria. A process that would have cost him three times as much if followed in Florida. Morales also visited a doctor about chronic stomach pain he had, meanwhile a trip to a doctor in Florida would have cost nearly $7, 5000.
Regardless of whether the recently traveling may be supporting a government some may view as unsavory, the main point is that it is bring together two different cultures who for a long time have been separated by a incorporeal governmental wall. A wall that has kept families separated due to the actions of men who “had the best interest” of their people. After years of claiming to have the best interest of its people, said interest is finally being acted upon by restoring one key concept between two worlds. Communication via open borders.