Students and teachers have visited Cuba for many years, as educational travel has been allowed by the U.S. government. Categories of legal travel to Cuba have been expanded.
“U.S. High Schoolers Discover Cuba on Educational Trips,” (US News, March 21, 2016) notes travel restrictions were further relaxed last year:
President Barack Obama is visiting Cuba this week, making him the first sitting president to visit the country in nearly 90 years. And last week his administration announced changes to travel restrictions that will make it easier for Americans to visit the country for educational purposes. …
And Marienfeld thinks her students were impressed with the Cuban students’ outlook on the future. Many dreamed of one day visiting the U.S., she says.
“One of the kids said, ‘You know, I was very impressed with how little they had, and how happy they were,'” she says. She thought that was a pretty good observation because they do have – and exist – on so very little, but culturally they are so rich, she says.
In an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld’s guest praises the amazing classic cars of Cuba. Seinfeld responds asking: “do you think that’s what they want?”
People in Cuba make the best of what they have. But their economy is too small to support automobile manufacturing. The U.S. embargo has blocked exports from the U.S. for over fifty years. So Cubans restore and maintain the Fords and Chevys already in Cuba before the 1959 revolution. For classic car enthusiasts, Cuba is wonderful. But for Cubans these cars are expensive to maintain, and their incomes are low. But why are Cubans in Cuba still so poor over a half century after the Batista regime? (Cubans who escaped to Miami have prospered.)
For decades the Cuban government has claimed the U.S. trade embargo is the cause of Cuba’s poverty. Economists agree the embargo blocked trade that would have allowed both Cubans and Americans to prosper.
But economists also argue that Cuba’s socialist economy system is a major source for the poverty of everyday Cubans. Still, the debate over Cuba’s lack of economic progress continues online, and students asking Google “Why are people so poor in Cuba?” will find a variety of links with opposing views.
For American tourists Cuba may seem a low-cost Disney-like “Fifties World” vacation. But for most who live and work in Cuba and can’t leave, living “on so very little” is not what they wish for if they could choose their government or do depart for the U.S.
This Miami Herald 20-year retrospective video on the 2004 Cuban Rafters story gives a glimpse of life in Cuba then and why so many were willing to take flimsy rafts for the U.S.
“Should the United States Maintain Its Embargo against Cuba?” on ProCon.org lists about a dozen arguments both for and against ending the embargo.
HBO offers a 2016 documentary, “Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death”
A raw, unvarnished look at contemporary Cuba through the lens of its people, who are at once fiercely loyal to their country while being extremely dissatisfied after decades of neglect.