Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fidel Castro Resigns

The international news wires are blaring with the resignation of Fidel Castro. Political pundits are speculating that nothing will change in Cuba because it is expected that the National Assembly, the legislature, will nominate Castro's brother, Raul Castro, as President. And Fidel Castro will continue to write articles for Cuba's state press thereby remaining a formidable voice in Cuba's culture and politics.

I have always been intrigued by the political, economic, and ideological wrangles between the U.S. and Cuba. I vaguely recall the tension during the Cuban missile crisis (yes I am old enough to have trace memories of those times even if I didn't understand at the time what the crisis was about). And these memories were reinforced when I met my first Cuban family in exile while I was in elementary school. I have always wondered how an island 90 miles off the coast of the Florida Keys could be such a nemesis for the U.S.

Though I do not claim to know anymore about Cuba than what I have read in translation and available in U.S. bookstores, I do know the relative caution that encases Cuban poets and artists when I have met them stateside at various functions when we Americans start probing about freedom of speech, economic stability, and quality of life in Cuba. Typical American questions that are rude and perhaps dangerous to those artists who have been allowed out of the country in hopes of projecting a more positive image of Cuba to the people of the U.S.

Although the U.S. press is anticipating that nothing much will change in Cuba with Castro's resignation, we can only hope that the academic and artistic communities continue to find ways to collaborate (despite restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba) and to remind both countries that the people of Cuba are human, all to human, and suffer from the same exigencies created by policies meted out by both governments. For, after all, domestic and international political and economic policies hurt real people, not nations, but people.

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