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Ni puros ni ron. ¿Por qué? Photo: Maletaready / Ilustrado.
Neither rum nor cigars. Why? Photo: Maletaready / Ilustrado.

Trump doesn't want you to travel to Cuba and you don't know what you're missing

Travel opens the mind, populism crushes it. What is behind the attempt to 'ban' American tourism to Cuba? 

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Beyond the Cuban revolution, Castro's long shadow hovering over life on the island, or the situation of artists, political dissidents and prisoners of ideas in Cuba — the extent of which we don't even know for sure — the island has historically been a place where some of the best Latin American writers have emerged and a country that bewitches, both for its beauty and the duality it possesses of living between two times. 

Even though there has always been a " junk" tourism — as happens in many other countries — the traveler who explores a territory and its culture, does it with their eyes and mind open to criticism, of course, but also to find similarities, to enrich themselves with the contrasts. 

Now, with the closure of borders imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, a new obstacle is added to the experience of travel — political populism in a budding election. 

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that U.S. travelers will not be allowed to take home Cuban cigars and rum, or stay in government-owned hotels under new measures designed to help financially cripple the island's government.

He said this at the White House, during a ceremony honoring the 20 veterans of the failed Cuban invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961.

While his predecessor, Obama, pursued a policy of opening up and easing tensions with the Cuban regime, Trump called these steps toward understanding "a weak and pathetic unilateral agreement," and gave a perverse twist to his decision, citing reasons of justice and democracy that he had never cared for, especially since, according to his detractors, he has done business with the island before as an entrepreneur. 

The maneuver, according to AP, occurred in an attempt by Trump to win the vote of Cuban Americans in Florida, especially those Republican leaning and older. It's all also happening while he is considering the possibility of electing Cuban American, Barbara Lagoa, as the successor to deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

If we also add that Trump had already recognized the Bay of Pigs veterans before, in November 2019, and that he has done so again in the context of the elections and the struggle for the Latino vote, the orchestrated show could not have any more strings attached. 

Everything for the citizen

While the Democrats call Trump's new "way out" electoral opportunism — and you don't have to be an analyst to see that — the issue being addressed now is bigger than a campaign issue. It concerns culture as a throwaway, to pretend to defend democracy by imposing walls, ditches, fences to the free flow of people. That is to say, of experiences and crossbreeding, which are what have made societies evolve. 

Although sometimes in an "invasive" way throughout history, the cultural encounter is cultural development and tourism, as well as an economic pillar, is an exercise in empathy. 

In the days of Black Lives Matters, when Brown and Black lives and their allies in the United States struggle not only for equality and against racism, but to bring out those darkened parts of history to tell the facts as they happened — or to get closer to the truth — the use of historical conflicts to keep crumpling up the word in a partisan way should be taken as an assault on culture(s) and on the freedom of each individual to decide where to go and what to see. 

The pandemic has closed the borders, demagogy has imposed new fences. The problem, of course, is not the people. It is not an island. It is not the United States. The problem is the perversion of "narrating" to "dividing".

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