Mad River Union
HAVANA – World nomads relishing this island’s global cachet consider the Trump adminstration’s Cuba policy futile and retrograde.
In their eyes, the administration is still in denial about Castro’s 1959 revolution, while the rest of the world accepted it long ago as a practical political matter. President Trump, they assert, stubbornly refuses an overdue accommodation with a poor, militarily insignificant Caribbean dictatorship. at the same time,
He indulges in a dangerous infatuation with Vladimir Putin while passionately embracing the antediluvian Saudi monarchy.
East of Havana, there is a mile-and-a-half uphill approach to the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, a 16th century strategic fortress built by slaves on the rocky promontory above the harbor. along the way, visitors see a history exhibit recalling Washington’s serial attempts to destroy the Cuban Revolution. The memorial includes U.S. Air Force wreckage, artillery pieces and a 1950’s vintage Soviet MiG 21.
Down below in sweltering Old Havana is the Museum of the Revolution, housed in the former Presidential Palace. Out front is a Soviet SU-100 self-propelled, turret-less tank destroyer. in the back, glass-enclosed, is the 60 foot cabin cruiser Granma, used by Fidel and Raúl Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos to land revolutionaries on the Cuban coast in the failed 1956 attempt to overthrow Fulgencio Batista.
Also on display are a british Hawker Sea Fury F-50 fighter aircraft, two SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles and the engine of a Lockheed U-2 spy plane shot down by Havana during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
All of which is to say that Cubans remain sentimental and nostalgic about their revolution and inclined to romanticize its leaders despite the economic travails and lack of freedom that have befallen them since. The revolution is part of their national identity. People from other countries believe that sentiment should be respected, especially by a nuclear superpower that should be capable of diplomatic realism if not nobility.
At one of the revolution exhibits, three visitors, two from Northern Ireland and a third from the Netherlands, strike up an impromptu conversation about world politics. all three find Trump’s Cuba policy silly and laughable, easily dismissed as callow and counterproductive. Yet they regard his presidency as a tragic mistake that threatens a global trade war and the loss of concerted action on climate change. alienating NATO and the European Union is one thing, dissing Havana is another.
The young Dutch woman, Muriel, voices hope that Trump’s sell-by date will fall short of two years in office, preferably sooner.
Sounding like Trump supporters, however, Tara and Sadie of Northern Ireland would prefer to eschew politics entirely.
Tara says she can’t stand either British Prime Minster Theresa May or Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. She’s at a loss to think of an alternative.
“All countries have political problems,” she says fatalistically. Eventually Trump will vacate the world stage.
A couple from Quebec remains amazed by Trump’s election. “How on earth did Americans vote for him?” Julie asks, in-tensely baffled. “He knows nothing and reads nothing. He’s a primitive – and so crude!”
A mathematician from Belize exclaimed, “I was shocked, really shocked” when Trump was elected. “I still can’t believe it.”
Having twigged the president’s mind (invertebrate) and modus operandi (prevarication), tourists from Austria, Ecuador and Germany as well as Quebec, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland tell a reporter they were not surprised by Trump’s quali ed repudiation of President Obama’s concordat with Havana.
Yet long-time Cuban expatriates in Florida favor Trump’s action, though they concede it will not disturb, much less upend, the Castro government.
Maria, a cashier in the gift shop at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, who emigrated in 1979, said she agreed with Trump’s decision, “even if a lot of people don’t.” It’s the principle of the thing, she said. “I know it won’t change anything, but still... ” Her voice trailed off wistfully.
At Versailles Restaurant, said to be the most popular Cuban eatery in Miami, “K” talks about Trump’s decision while looking over the many confections in the restaurant’s spacious dessert parlor.
Scion of a wealthy Cuban family that moved to Miami in 1964 when she was two, she shakes her head thoughtfully.
She also says, “It won’t change anything” – in a tone suggesting she certainly wishes it would.