On August 15, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry, was the first US secretary of state to visit Cuba in 70 years. His visit marks the historic end of sour relations between the US and Cuba and the re-opening of the US embassy in Havana. As he addressed the crowd, in both English and Spanish, he talked about the possibility of lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo, as well as the restoration of a true democratic system on the island.
The year is 1959. Imagine you are an American tourist. During your stay, you withdraw money from an American-owned bank, use American-owned electricity, smoke American-grown tobacco, use American-owned phone lines, buy beachwear at an American-owned store, and sleep at an American-owned hotel. Where would you guess you are vacationing?
If your guess is somewhere in the United States––Florida, perhaps––you’re within 200 miles of being correct.
Monday, September 21, 2015, marked the one year anniversary of the death of Paola Acosta, a woman who suffered her fate at the hands of her ex-partner1, Gonzalo Lizarralde. She was raped, killed and dumped in a sewer together with her one-year-old daughter, Martina, who she had in common with her attacker. Remarkably, Martina survived. Wednesday, September 23, Gonzalo Lizarralde, marked the first day of the prosecution for the murder of Paola2.
On October 2, 2015 Carlow University and the city of Pittsburgh were given the pleasure of hosting Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet for Barack Obama’s 2012 inauguration, the poet chosen for the ceremonial reopening of the United States Embassy in Cuba, and an author of various works. Of Blanco’s works many are published by The University of Pittsburgh Press. Blanco started off the evening, which was his first time in Pittsburgh, saying he felt that he had come home.
Since becoming Pope, Pope Francis has been celebrated around the world as not only a religious figure, but also an unofficial diplomat. Pope Francis has traveled around the world and given a number of addresses during his time as Pope thus far. Yet, though a religious leader, the Pope’s addresses are never simply religious. Instead, his message has weighed in on a number of political topics, including immigration and US-Cuba relations during his most recent visit to both countries.
The Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, the newly remodeled theater which houses the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, is a striking building both inside and out.
In Cuba, a country where omnipresent political propaganda makes nationalism seem to be less of an option and more of a legal obligation, the streets are filled with images of historical figures.
You are watching a group of dancers perform at an outdoor salsa club when someone standing beside you asks in Spanish, “Where are you from?” You answer, “Los Estados Unidos,” and the young man’s face lights up. He exclaims in rapid, clipped Spanish that you can’t quite understand, and jokingly introduces himself as “Robin Hood.” You laugh.
If you walk down the Calle 1 in Havana, Cuba, you will come across a wrought-iron gate fixed with the Star of David in the center. Beyond the gates is a geometric 1950s-era building whose front doors are marked with gold menorahs. Since 1953, the Synagogue Bet Shalom (also known as El Patronato) has been a reminder of the Jewish population throughout Cuba.
This October, the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami put out a report that Cuba may have sent military personnel to Syria, to help Russia support Bashar al-Assad’s regime.