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The US policy toward Cuba is changing. But whether exiled Cubans will return is a different story.

Photo by peamasher

The Obama administration recently “eased” travel restrictions to Cuba for those Cuban Americans who have relatives on the island.

They are allowed to travel to Cuba once per year for as long as they like, moving regulations back to pre-2004 rules enacted by Bush.

Some think this is a signal from the US government of a change in attitude towards Cuba. Others, noting Obama’s administration’s pledge that the new policy will “have no teeth,” think this is not the case.

If US policy towards Cuba continues to be softened over time, what does this mean for Cuban Americans?

Many of the Cubans who fled the US after Castro’s rise to power have consistently backed a policy of non-engagement with the country until Castro’s regime is overthrown. But the anticipated fall never occurred.

And as Cuban-American Miriam Perez noted in a recent blog:

Over the years the immigrant population has changed a lot, both because of numerous other waves of immigrants from the island and simply the passage of time…my parents’ generation have spent most of their lives in the United States and are pretty well integrated into communities here.

Many in my generation have never even been to Cuba (myself included) and know Cuban culture through places like South Miami.

The political landscape of Cuba has, for the most part, stayed its course. Should Cubans living in the US and Cuban-Americans hope for further removal of travel restrictions to Cuba?

And would eased access to Cuba even matter to 3rd generation Cuban-Americans?

Share your thoughts below!

Community Connection

If you’re set on visiting Cuba, check out How To Travel To And From Cuba, and Why You Should Travel To Cuba Now.

Activism + Politics


About The Author

Christine Garvin

Christine Garvin is a certified Nutrition Educator and holds a MA in Holistic Health Education. She is the founder/editor of Living Holistically...with a sense of humor and co-founder of Confronting Love. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga, and performing hip-hop and bhangra. She also likes to pretend living in her hippie town of Fairfax, CA is like being on vacation.

  • Julie

    Regardless of one’s political opinions about the Cuban Revolution and the Castros, and regardless of one’s opinions about the Obama administration’s long-range, big picture foreign policy with Cuba, this change is both important and necessary.

    Perhaps the most damaging aspect of the US embargo against Cuba has been the imposition of rules upon Cuban family members living in the US regarding the frequency and duration of visits and the frequency and quantity of remissions. The change can only be good for Cubans living in the US, many of whom want to be able to see their family members, and many of whom haven’t for a very long time.

  • Beth

    Thanks, Christine! As a Canadian, I really don’t understand a whole lot about the issue so this post was helpful. I’ve always felt that embargoes seem to hurt people more than the politicians, but it didn’t occur to me that Cuban immigrants to the US might have actually supported the restrictions.

    I’ve always thought it was odd that the Department of State recommends avoiding all travel to dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but the only place it’s actually illegal for Americans to travel is Cuba. I’m honestly surprised that Americans aren’t more upset by the government placing limitations on their right to travel.

  • GG

    I was in Cuba for three weeks in Jan/Feb and had a great time.

    Although there were some restrictions on life as a tourist I didn’t notice it being much different to any western country.

    It will be a shame in a way if Cuba is opened to the world for travellers, as it may lose its uniqueness, but I hope Americans are allowed to visit freely, as it is a wonderful place, and it will be good for Cubans too.

    The embargo on Cuba should end as soon as possible, as it does not deserve it from what I have seen and read, and it just makes the US look bad.

  • Beth

    GG, Cuba is already open “to the world of travellers”. As far as I know, the US is the only country that bans travel there, and the US certainly isn’t the world. I don’t think the country will lose it’s “uniqueness”. It’s really not all that exotic for those of us who are free to travel there — the mystique of it being forbidden doesn’t really affect us. (Although we do take delight in doing things our American neighbours can’t — like bringing back cigars!)

    I agree with you on the embargo. I don’t understand who it’s supposed to be helping anymore.

  • GG

    Sorry Beth, just bad or unclear English on my behalf in my haste.

    I meant it will be bad for travellers in the sense that it might lose some of its identity, with chain shops etc taking the place of local, making it less interesting.

    It’s probably already started anyway, with a Paul and Shark shop in Havana, big hotels on the main beaches and having to deal with more day to day capitalism than you encounter in our capitalist world.

    I particularly recommend Vinales if you go to Cuba: a UNESCO heritage site because of its mogote limestone rocks and a truly awesome vista only about three hours from Havana.

  • RJC

    I just returned from a week vacationing in Cuba. As a Canadian I wondered what the impact will be when Americans are free to travel there. Initially I thought it would finally benefit the Cuban people greatly who are sufferring the most by the embargo.

    But when I realized that that Americans have done very little to benefit so few locals in the Dominican Republic I concluded that It will have done about as much for the Cuban people as vacationing Canadians have done for the people of Cuba. Very little I think. It is sad really. Is it the US’ responsibility to bring up the standards of the Cubans alone? Of course not and they won’t alone.

    Both countries have such wonderful people but live in such poverty by our standards. A lot needs to change with both the government there and the American stance toward it. Free travel for Cubans outside the country for example. When you need to put such restrictions on your people in order to maintain power, it can never be a good situation regardless of anyone else’s position.

    Such a huge discussion from so many angles. American travel is a good first step and is about time but I think it’s a small part of the big picture. Very small.

  • Gabriela Garcia

    I know I’m super late on this article, but I thought I’d comment since I’m a third generation Cuban American. I’ve been to Cuba twice, when it was legal under Clinton and now that it is legal under Obama. While it’s true that a large percentage of Cuban Americans support the embargo and an ineffective and unfair policy towards Cuba, I feel that the rest of us are often left out of the conversation. The rest of us being the not super rich/politically connected, the thousands upon thousands with family still in Cuba, recent immigrants with completely different ideas about policy towards Cuba, young Cuban Americans who could care less about politics and just want to visit the country immortalized in their parent’s memories. The reality is that in all the polls conducted on the topic, the majority of Cuban Americans favor ending the travel ban. So to answer your question, YES, we will return and it matters to the majority of us.

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