What President Obama’s Visit to Cuba Means for Cubans of African Descent

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First Family steps foot on tarmac in Cuba.

 

By Devyn Spence Benson, for the Huffington Post

First Family steps foot on tarmac in Cuba.
First Family steps foot on tarmac in Cuba.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama will be the first U.S. President to set foot on Cuban soil since 1928. With economic sanctions still firmly in place, the visit represents a potential thawing of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. However, for many Cubans of African Descent, the arrival of the first black President is more than just a demonstration of political goodwill: it symbolizes an opportunity for Afro-Cubans and African Americans to rediscover their shared struggle against racism.

President Obama’s three-day trip to the island comes just two years after restoring diplomatic relations, Cuba’s participation in its first Organization of American States(OAS) meeting in decades, and visits to Havana by Secretary of State John Kerry. Having little memory of what started the tensions between our country and the island 90 miles south of Florida, most Americans see the embargo as a relic from the past, though Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio have used Obama’s visit as more evidence of the president’s failed foreign policy.

For many African Americans, long fascinated with Cuba’s similar and distinct racial politics, this gradual re-engagement with Cuba has prompted an outpouring of enthusiasm. For example, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates explored the island and featured it in his Black in Latin America series, Beyoncé and Jay-Z made a big splash dining at one of Havana’s most famous paladares in 2013, and offers for special African American tours to Cuba abound. Based on the shared experience of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, some even argue that African Americans should be the first in line to visit the island.  Click here to read the entire article.

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