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June 25th, 2014

Reasons Why Our Country is Visiting Cuba Again



Harry C. Alford

We first visited Cuba in 2000. There was so much to see that we visited twice that year (August and November). The nation showed so much promise with its healthcare system, education standards, natural resources and a population that is significantly Black. Dr. Arthur A. Fletcher (deceased) told me that "One day this nation will be the Hong Kong of the Caribbean". From what we see and hear that time is approaching at a consistent and fast pace.

Tom Donohue, President of the US Chamber, is feeling the same way. The following is part of his monthly report to the Board of Directors (I have been a member for 14 years): "Last week, I had the opportunity to lead a small U.S. Chamber delegation to Havana, Cuba. It was my first visit in 15 years. Back then, speaking to students at the University of Havana, I said it was time to begin a new chapter in U.S. – Cuba relations but that changes would be required in both countries to make that happen.

"That new chapter has begun. Cuba is gradually changing its economic model and a small but growing private sector is taking root. Small, privately owned businesses are springing up. Some government-owned cooperatives are being privatized. With a new foreign investment law on the books and with a world-class port at Mariel nearing completion, the government is cautiously putting the welcome mat out for foreign investment….

"The U.S. stance towards Cuba is changing as well. While the U.S. embargo (which the Chamber has long opposed) remains in place, the Obama administration has loosened some of the restrictions in order to allow products such as food and medicine to be exported. Educational and other people-to-people exchanges are allowed, regularly scheduled chartered flights leave the United States packed with passengers, and Cuban-Americans are permitted to visit and remit funds to their Cuban relatives. Over 300,000 Cuban-Americans now visit the island annually and their remittances total at least $2 billion per year."

We are so excited about visiting the nation during November 18 -23, 2014. The first time we went we had 34 persons. I predict we will have twice that much despite the fact that Cuba is not nearly as inexpensive as it was in 2000. $80 per night 5star hotels are now about $300. But that is indicative of the exponential growth in the demand. Dr. Fletcher’s prediction is taking form.

I have shared with you the view of an American business leader. In fact, Tom Donohue is the president of the largest business association in the world. Seldom, if ever do we hear from a person born and presently living in Cuba. Alberto Gonzalez Rivero has just written a book entitled "Born to Translate Cuba". He currently works at the Martin Luther King Center in Havana. He has just published a book about his life growing up in Cuba. Amazon Books is selling the book and here is their review:

"In this lively memoir, told with engaging wit and emotion, Alberto Gonzalez Rivero provides an intimate look at Cuba following the Revolution under Fidel Castro—a perspective few North Americans ever encounter.

"By integrating history into his personal narrative, Alberto provides an honest look into the culture and society of Cuba today. From the literacy campaign through the collapse of the Soviet Union to the current challenges of tourism and the dual currency system, this book provides a unique perspective on Cuba from a man who truly knows it. Alberto’s story personalizes the Cuban experience and will change readers’ perspective on Cuba while simultaneously inspiring them to pursue their dreams regardless how difficult.

"Alberto Gonzalez, poor country boy, masters English, earns his university degree and embarks on a bright teaching future. Suddenly economic disaster strikes his family and almost all Cuban families during the "Special Period" of the1990s after the Soviet collapse. Alberto, now the young father of two little daughters, struggles mightily to keep food on the table. Just when things are looking especially grim, a chance encounter with Reverend Raul Suarez of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana provides him with the chance to utilize his special gift and training in languages as the interpreter for visiting delegations—and eventually as a translator for Fidel Castro himself.

"Most Cuban stories are written by those who have emigrated to the US and no longer know Cuba today. The author of this memoir proudly loves Cuba, his life-long home. Alberto is an energetic ambassador for his country, introducing its culture and its beautiful people to visiting delegations from across the world. He does more than translate conversations. He translates Cuba! Proud to be a Cuban, he remains grateful for the revolution that gave people like himself the chance to grow and succeed. An important book! A delightful read!" Cuba here we come! Read about our itinerary: http://bit.ly/TPp2Dm

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.


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