There is in fact an American blockade of Cuba, a somewhat surreal and Kafkaesque relic of the Cold War, but it isn’t total. Close to half a million Cuban-Americans visit the island every year, usually bringing gifts and/or money to their family and friends. I don’t know exactly how much is being brought over but I would imagine that it is a lot. Yet, from what I could see walking around the streets of Old Havana last week it is nowhere near enough.
In the capital city of this country the slow demise of its beautiful architecture could almost be defined as systemic, as it’s just about everywhere you look. Of course, Cuba isn’t the only place on the planet in urgent need of urban renewal. The United States also has its rough spots with cities in an advanced state of decay, Detroit for instance, but Havana takes that decay to a whole new level. I remember seeing some buildings and thinking that it was a miracle that they were still standing and that no one had died from a crumbling roof or balcony. Cuban friends of mine would then explain that it was much worse a decade ago before the government started to rebuild a few of the more historic plazas. But frankly it’s hard for me, a foreigner, to imagine how anything could be worse than this.
While I was born and raised in Miami I am not one of those who are in favor of maintaining the embargo for as long as the Castro brothers remain in power. At the same time I do not believe that the removal of the embargo will automatically solve all of Cuba’s cash flow problems. Especially because I do not think that the United States can be blamed for everything that needs fixing in Cuba.
My hope is that someday the Cubans themselves will rebuild Havana and for me, that includes the Cuban exiles in Miami. If the two governments on either side of the Florida straits will politely get out of the way and let the Cuban people do what needs to be done then Havana could easily become again one of the most beautiful cities in the world.