I intend no pretense here. My words are meanderings, a glance, as was my path through Cuba. I was a photojournalist for 30 years. The photographs should be regarded as the product of a journalist but what you read is more a reflection of some reading, some conversation and much observation over a week's visit to a limited region of Cuba, that being the city of Matanzas, trips to Havana and time spent in the Santa Cruz del Norte coastal area.--Edwards
I didn't know what to think about Cuba. As Americans, how could we? Would there be hostility for ignoring and neglecting them for nearly six decades? Would they be defensive as a means of protecting themselves from whatever idea they may have of their looming neighbors to the north? Having just returned home, I get the sense that America's feelings toward Cuba is a concern for them not out of any sort of fear but rather the desire we all have of just wanting to be liked.
My wife and I visited Cuba the first week of 2017. We are both educators, my transition to teaching was after 30 years as a photojournalist. We spent a week in a hotel setting where the staff was expected to be hospitable, but we found the Cuban people to be genuinely warm and gracious. This feeling extended beyond the walls of the hotel. The Cubans have been hosting international visitors for many years with tourism now being one of Cuba’s leading industries. Cuba isn't resisting the new American invasion, tourism. The Cuban government seems to be welcoming all visitors, tourism being a part of their plan to rebuild and re-energize both their economy and their image to the world.
A week’s visit to Cuba has left me with the feeling that President Obama’s initiative to open relations with the country is the right one. The Cuban people have suffered long and deeply if my observation of their housing conditions and transportation needs among others is accurate. They have suffered from American sanctions, from the withdrawal of the Russians in the '90s and from their own form of government. They have suffered for generations and will suffer for generations to come. The Cuban people are another example of how an innocent people suffer from the decisions of a few.
Can you go? Should you go? Yes, with the understanding that the U.S. government requires you to make a statement of your reason for travel and that you must qualify from a list of 12 possible categories of travel under a general license.
Here’s verbage from the Treasury department pertaining to who can go to Cuba--
Travel-related transactions are permitted by general license for certain travel related to the following activities, subject to the criteria and conditions in each general license: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.
There are many flights from airlines in America going to Cuba on a daily basis. That’s a lot of Americans going to Cuba every day. For many, their stated reason for going is for educational purposes or professional research. But be aware, you must have a reason for travel as mandated by American law. Be prepared to show evidence proving your time in Cuba was spent fulfilling that purpose for five years after your trip. That’s the hard line. In reality, the Cubans will not stamp your passport and there can be little evidence you ever made the trip to Cuba.
What will you need to visit Cuba? Three things--you’ll need to state your reason for travel, you’ll need a visa (also known as a travel card). Ours was provided on our flight from the airline) and, thirdly, the Cuban government officially requires you to have medical insurance (purchased in Cuba) in the event you need medical care while in-country or in the event you need medical evacuation back to the United States. Their insurance is a bargain at about $3 per day. We were never asked to show proof of the medical insurance nor did we see evidence of the office in the airport where we anticipated buying the insurance.