Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alfredo Prieto : Cuba in the 21st century

On Thursday June 9th we had a two hour discussion with Alfredo Prieto, a Cuban intellectual who had written extensively about the history of US-Cuban relations and had travelled widely within both the United States and Cuba.

To begin his talk, he explained that the relationship between the United States and Cuba had always been defined by asymmetry, contrary to a dominant US perception that a positive bilateral relationship had existed between the two countries. He explained the deep historical connections between the US and Cuba, that women from Havana sent George Washington money during the American Revolution, and that John Quincy Adams came up with the desire of Cuba's rapid transition from Spanish to American hands. He went on to explain the 20th century history of the unequal relationship, from the platt amendment, to the CIA's rapid response to the Cuban Revolution with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Most of this we already knew, so it was more relative to us when he began to elaborate on the current state of relations. He pointed out, with more than a touch of irony, that Cubans were even more up to date on American culture than Americans, given that pirated American movies and music arrived in Cuba before they were released in the United States. He acknowledged all the complexities of the embargo, citing the common understanding in Cuba that the continued US support for the embargo lay with the old generation of Cuban-Americans in Miami that had fled when the Castros took power.

We discussed the current thorns in the side of the bilateral relationship, like the Cuban 5, Cuban-American terrorists, and Alan Gross. He said that Alan Gross would most likely be freed one day, and that his detention was primarily a warning to the US not to try any more covert actions in Cuba.

Finally, he discussed his partnership with the Hampshire College in Cuba program, which was very interesting to me as I had a friend from Philadelphia who had participated in that program just a couple of months ago. It turned out we both knew her, which was pretty cool, and made me think again about just how connected the US and Cuba are, despite 50 years of officially existing in mutually exclusive isolation. Mr. Prieto brought an independent viewpoint to our studies in Cuba that underlined continuing difficulties in the governments of both countries, and really furthered our knowledge of the Cuban situation en actualidad. My thanks to both Alfredo Prieto, and the CGE in Cuba program.

Daniel Rosenfeld

Oberlin College '12

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