Feliz Cumpleaños a José Martí

Feliz Cumpleaños a José Martí, born on January 28, 1853. He became a poet, essayist, political theorist, etc. etc. He wrote numerous works, generally about politics, revolution, peaceful takeover. His quotes are profound and widely known.

I always find it interesting how many governments and people have revered him for the past century. For example, he was revered by various Cuban governments, including the current government. The people of Cuba, then and now, also revered him, even if they are not pro-government. Isn’t it interesting that governments and their opponents would both honor the same person?

One of these days, I’m going to finish my research and write something about this interesting man, including his connection to Ocala, Florida, Tampa, Florida and other places in the United States.


With U.S. Law Changes, Can I Visit Cuba Now?

People are always asking me how they can go to Cuba. I am able to go without a tour because of the U.S. rule that allows visits to Close Relatives, which I have in two areas of Cuba.  I refer people who ask me and don't have family there to Steve Rupert, of Cuba Travel Adventure. I met him on my first visit to Havana in 2010, because he was staying in the same casa particular as I.  He works as a court mediator in Tampa, but spends a lot of time taking people to Cuba.

He has a license to legally transport small and large groups for various purposes to Cuba.

He wrote this e-mail the day after the announcement by Obama and Castro, talking about the new changes that are coming.

"Hi Folks,
As you may have heard, there will be changes to Cuba travel policy. It appears you will still need a license to go there and still must use specific travel providers. But the intent is to make it easier for average citizens to go. If by easier they mean negotiate the Cuba travel restrictions by yourself.
There is no doubt going to be an uptick in Cuba travel by Americans. Part of the new regulations allow for certain exports and business relationships to be forged. This means eventually, Havana will start to look more American.
I strongly recommend you see Havana before Starbucks moves in. This is why I will be taking tour groups every two weeks starting in mid-January, depending on seat availability. Since the announcement of the changes, my phone has been ringing off the hook. After speaking with the charter flight companies, I cannot make specific dates in January until they look at seat demand. But I can tell you the crowd is forming.
My trips are one week and costs $2000, which includes the flight from Tampa, accommodation and health insurance. You will have English speaking guides throughout. There will be at least one trip to the provinces. You can email me back or call me at 813-263-6300.
Hope to see you soon. You need to see Havana as it is now before the inevitable Americanization takes hold. Whatever dates you have available I’m sure I can find a trip to suit your schedule. See you in Havana.
Steve Rupert
Cuba Travel Adventure

Cold War fugitives spawn potential Cuba-U.S. Tensions - AP Story

U.S. fugitives granted asylum in Cuba may be a bit nervous that they'll be returned, but it doesn't seem that is in the works.

11:03 p.m. EST December 25, 2014

Beginning of the article:   

“Havana — For decades some of America's most-wanted fugitives made new lives for themselves in Cuba, marrying, having children and becoming fixtures of their modest Havana neighborhoods as their cases went mostly forgotten at home.

Granted political asylum by former President Fidel Castro, they became players in his government's outreach to American minorities and leftists, giving talks about Cuba's merits to sympathetic visitors, medical students and reporters from the U.S.

Last week's stunning reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba has returned these graying relics of the Cold War to the headlines, transforming them into a potential source of tension in the new era of detente between the two nations.

The dozens of men and women wanted by the U.S. range from quotidian Medicaid fraud suspects to black militants and Puerto Rican nationalists with major bounties on their heads.”


Not Everybody is Enthusiastic about Changes In U.S. / Cuba Relationship

It's obvious that not everybody is delighted about the changes in the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.  We expected the outspoken exile community members to object, and they certainly are. But for most Americans, it's a non-event, except that many more are wondering how they can visit Cuba.

Here's an AP Article about 

Protesters: ‘It’s not the time’ for more Cuba ties" 

Published: December 20, 2014, 1:11 pm

[Another AP Article, which can be found in various places]

The opening paragraphs of the articles state:

From the Article: - "Adolpho Sabogal walks with a Cuban flag at a protest in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014. Sabogal, who is originally from Columbia, said he was apolitical but came to support the Cuban community, as well as sell Cuban flags to the crowd. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)"
"MIAMI (AP) – Waving flags and chanting “Obama, traitor,” anti-Castro protesters gathered Saturday in a Little Havana park in a show of opposition to the president’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba.

From the Article:  Teresa Fiallo puts her thumbs down during a protest in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami on Saturday, Dec, 20, 2014 against President Barack Obama's plan to normalize relations with Cuba. The executive orders Obama announced Wednesday can clear the way for limited exports to Cuba and freer travel by specific categories of Americans such as academics and artists, but he acknowledged his need to work with Congress to end the decades-old embargo Cuba blames for the dire condition of its infrastructure and economy. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)"
More than 200 people listened to speeches, and many carried Cuban and American flags. Some speakers emphasized unity of the Cuban-American community and said there is not a generational divide, even though most in the crowd were older.

Others blasted President Barack Obama. “The worst infamy is the pretext he used: He says it’s to help the Cuban people,” Lincoln Diaz Balart said to chuckles.

Several chants rang out among protesters: “No more flights to Cuba!” ”Viva Cuba libre!” and “Freedom for all the political prisoners.”

Cuban Travel Increases Markedly

I am making my 7th trip to Cuba in four years in February, to visit family, and to attend the Havana International Book Fair again.  I began the efforts of making a reservation a month before the Obama / Castro talks came to light.  I was very surprised that most flights, three months in the future, were full.  I had to try over and over to locate a flight that met my needs, and put me in Havana when author Leonardo Padura would be speaking at UNEAC, (The Cuban author organization).  The possibility of getting to Cuba is going to be harder and harder, unless flights increase.  I have a friend who’s going on a cruise that leaves from Jamaica and stops in various Cuba ports.

Here is an article from the Miami Herald about what the Cuba travel companies think:

U.S.-Cuba travel business prepares for seismic shift

12/23/2014 7:00 AM 12/23/2014 10:04 PM

The article starts like this:

“When news broke that Washington and Havana would be renewing diplomatic relations, the phones at InsightCuba began ringing off the hook with Americans interested in traveling to the island.

InsightCuba and other people-to-people providers, which are licensed to organize trips to Cuba that promote engagement between Americans and the Cuban people, anticipate more travel. But some providers say even bigger changes are ahead — perhaps allowing authorized travelers to visit on their own rather than only on an organized tour.

“It’s all a bit tentative because Treasury hasn’t come up with the new travel regulations yet,” said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, which has worked to end the U.S. embargo since 1985. “But it’s clear in the language of the president’s announcement that they’re talking about every American, not just organizations. ”

[Photo is of a hotel on El Prado in Havana called El Telegrafo, which I took in 2010.]

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article4894620.html#storylink=cpy

“Look Toward a Brighter Future With Cuba”

This article was published by the Daytona Beach News Journal, as an opinion in favor of the changes in Diplomatic Relations Between U.S. and Cuba:

“Look Toward a Brighter Future With Cuba” by Alberto Jones – “Jones, of Palm Coast, is president and founder of the Caribbean American Children’s Foundation. A Cuban native, he came to the United States in 1980.” This is a “Community Voice”, Daytona Beach News Journal – December 31, 2004. 

First Paragraph of Article:  “I watched, with my daughter and grandson, the speeches of President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro on Dec. 17 in Havana. My emotions, joy and sense of relief were corroborated by millions of people across Cuba and the world, and I was forced to reflect on Jan. 3, 1961, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his arrogant, threatening and imperial speech informing the world of his decision to sever relations with Cuba.”