“ It’s Not You, It’s Me “ -Cuba

Remysell Salas
4 min readAug 18, 2017

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A brief history of the relationship between Cuba and United States

Without understanding the United States’ role in severing ties between these two nations, we may be doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Most recently, the US elected republican president Donald Trump has publicly stated that he will alter the recent agreements and eradicate years of progressive collaboration put in place by the Obama administration.

The relationship between Cuba and the US may now swing from “let’s make it work” back to “it’s complicated”. However, Cuba and the US both deserve better.

Cuba’s resiliency and dedication for independence for their people and country are what makes them remarkable in their history; its revolutionary movements sparked a generation of activists that changed the face of the world, proving that a once ‘invincible’ super power could be brought to its knees in the name of freedom.

Castro and his regime have been far from perfect, persecuting thousands of Cubans and often reneging on its revolutionary roots. However, the pride of the Cuban people and their influence in the arts, music (like Son), politics and social justice (leaders such as Governor Justo Salas and General Antonio Maceo that fought for the identity and wellbeing of Afro-Cubans) is something that cannot be measured. Cubans have much to offer the world, and they deserve better than a pseudo-colonial relationship with the United States.

The connection between Cuba and the United States is like a long complicated love story.

The relationship stems far before the two nations claimed their own independence. In the 18th century, the relationship was defined primarily by shared economic interests, with the Spanish colony of Cuba becoming very prosperous through trading tobacco and sugar with the US colonies. However, for the next two centuries, the relationship soured, and the two nations began to quarrel with each other over resources and political differences.

Part of the tension arose from the fact that the relationship was very much one-sided, in a way that seemed to greatly benefit the US. The imbalance began almost immediately after the US colonies gained their independence from Great Britain, though initially the relationship seemed promising.

The newly independent colonies assisted Cuba to gain their own independence from Spain in the Spanish- American War. The US also signed the Treaty of Paris that made sure to keep the Spanish out of Cuba and the Western hemisphere. However, this was only shortly after the US intervention came to occupy Cuba and the Caribbean.

The island soon opened to US financial institutions and developed a booming real estate market, as many US citizens began to purchase swaths of Cuban land for a budding tourism industry, corporations and control of the housing market.

Sadly, Cuba had fought for their independence only to be subjugated by another nation. Although trade with the United States allowed Cuba to be one of the most prosperous nations in the Caribbean, Cuba became more and more interested in breaking free than maintaining a potentially profitable but inequitable relationship with the U.S. The desire for freedom gave rise to many political activists and student groups to fight and change the scope of the Caribbean for good.

For example, a young Fidel Castro and other students from the University of Habana protested against the regime of former Cuban president Ramon Grau, as well as joining the University Committee for the Independence of Puerto Rico and the Committee for Democracy in the Dominican Republic.

US capitalism became a wedge in a once promising relationship, and many Cubans felt they could no longer allow foreigners control their land and take their resources. For Cuba, it was like a once friendly neighbor had intruded into their home and started to demand rent.

Thus US imperialism directly gave rise to the Cuban Revolution. Cubans had resolved to overthrow the US-appointed Cuban President Fulgencio Batista and remove US dominance in their country. After years of trying to make it work, Cuba had decided to end its relationship with the US.

In 1959, the Cuban Revolution lead to the replacement of the authoritarian government of President Batista, through an armed revolt by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement and its allies. Not one to be jilt, the US placed an embargo on exports to Cuba, resulting in an antagonistic relationship between the two countries with lasting effects on the Cuban economy.

After decades of hostility, in 2015, U.S. President Obama eased aspects of the Cuban embargo to improve the relationship between the two nations. Unlike generations of US citizens before them, today, many have the opportunity to legally travel to Cuba. This policy by the Obama administration has been a praised by many in the Cuban community internationally and on the island. What has been downplayed in the history; is the United States own role in damaging this relationship.

And that brings us to the question of today as Donald Trump readies to talk over for Obama: What’s the next chapter for the US and Cuban relations?

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Remysell Salas

Rémy is a lecturer at CUNY for the Dept. of Ethnic and Race Studies. He lectures courses on politics, Caribbean identity, immigration, and NYC history.