1. National Currency: In 2015, Cuba will merge their infamous two currencies to create a National Currency that all people – citizens, tourists, and foreign traders - will use. This single act will have an enormous impact on the economic growth of this socialist/communist country. It also demonstrates Raul Castro’s gradualist approach - experimenting with a free-market economy while easing restrictions on individual freedoms.
2. Political Succession: In 2018, Raul Castro will resign as Cuba’s President at the ripe age of 86. It will mark the first time in sixty years that a Castro will not be in power. He has anointed Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez as his successor. Today, Canel is the First Vice President of the Council of State - the number two spot. He will be 58 years old when he assumes leadership. He is handsome, university educated, an engineer, a military veteran and former minister of higher education. He is believed to be a “gradualist” with a hefty respect for competence over ideology.
3. The Embargo: The Cuban Embargo was instituted in 1962 in retaliation for Castro’s “nationalization” policies. After 50 years, it is still in effect. Consequently, the US has no positive influence on the island and continues to harm Cuban citizens every day. Our irrational stance has left a void for China, Venezuela and now Russia to fill. This year only the US and Israel voted against the UN resolution to lift the Embargo. To date, this insidious blockade has resulted in an estimated $1.126 trillion in economic damages. In addition to the Embargo, we include Cuba on our State Sponsored Terrorism List - along with Iran, Syria, and the Sudan.
4. Coral Reef System: This 800 km-long ecosystem includes nine protected areas comprising the main marine areas in Cuba and the insular Caribbean Sea. These southern waters may be the only place on the planet where coral, giant glowing Elkhorn, is actually growing. Huge fish, sea turtles, sharks and salt water crocodiles live here in abundance. Today, marine biologists and oceanographers from Cuba, the US and Mexico are banding together to safeguard this pristine marine laboratory. Because of Cuba’s organic farming network (no coral killing fertilizers) and oceanic conservation (banned fishing in the reserve) this Coral Reef System has earned recognition as an UNESCO “Living Heritage Site.”
5. Tourism: Cuba has become a tourist magnet because of her tropical climate, Spanish Colonial architecture, Latin sounds and historic significance. She is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Cuba was the bridgehead from where Columbus and the Spanish Conquistadores began their exploration of the Americas. Her past glories are hard to replicate anywhere else in the world. Cuba’s tourism sector is expected to explode when the new currency comes into effect.
6. National Schools of Art: The Cubanacan is the set of building that forms the National Schools of Art, created in 1962. This network is an outstanding example of contemporary Cuban architecture at an international level. The schools train Cuban artists in five specialties: Plastic Arts, Music, Ballet, Drama, Modern and Folkloric Dancing. UNESCO considers the schools “the most advanced example of an all-encompassing and multidisciplinary pedagogical and artistic project” in effect today.
7. Cuban Art: Cuban art embodies a pluralistic mix of Spanish, African, and Caribbean influences and motifs. Even though art sales are heavily taxed by the State, Cuban artists are among the wealthiest one percent of the population. The US Embargo does not restrict purchases of Cuban art, music or books. Consequently, Cuban Art is red hot and highly coveted in New York City and Art Centers all over the world. Prices are accelerating rapidly as collectors cash in early.
8. Racism Cuban Style: Afro-Cubans, descendants of Spanish colonial slaves, continue to fall behind despite their numbers. The black population in Cuba is far greater than the spurious numbers (20%) of the most recent official census. The sheer number of blacks on the street reveals, in a most obvious way, the numerical fraud. Most people forget that in Cuba a drop of white blood can - if only on paper - make a mestizo or a white person. Citizens here culturally identify with their “whiteness” in any small measure of it. Therefore, many darker skinned Afro-Cubans are under-represented in government, education and the lucrative tourism sector. Today, the nuances governing skin color continues to hide longstanding racial conflicts and prejudices.
9. Guantanamo Naval Base: The US leases the 45-square-mile Naval Base on the eastern tip of the island under a 1903 treaty. It is our oldest overseas Base and the only one in a country without diplomatic relations. We continue to send Cuba a monthly lease payment of $4,085. However, the Castros dispute the lease and have refused to cash any of the checks since the early days of the Revolution. In 1986, the Base became the home of the first and only McDonald’s in Cuba. Until its closure, "Gitmo" will continue to stand for humanitarian, political and economic abuses.
10. National Prognostic Center of Cuba’s Meteorological Institute: Almost every hurricane that strikes the southern United States passes through Cuba first. This shared destiny has led to a rare truce and cooperation between Cuba and the US. For nearly 40 years, our joint meteorological centers have quietly exchanged satellite data, analyzed radar, assessed wind speed and collaborated on weather forecasting. The Embargo has never affected this vital exchange of life-saving information. It appears that the weather, as always, is a safe topic.
Ann White, Self-Proclaimed Educator & Pathfinder