Updated: July 21, 2015 12:00:31 am
José Martí, Cuba’s supreme poet and national hero, embodied the fundamental paradox of Latin American attitudes towards the United States. Martí disliked the US and the perceived interventionist threat it posed to Latin America. Yet, nobody knew better than Martí, in his day, that a tiny island nation like Cuba had no better means of throwing off colonial bondage than adopting North American politico-economic reforms. One hundred and twenty years after Martí’s death and 54 years after the American and Cuban embassies closed in Havana and Washington DC, respectively, the curtain has fallen on the last remnant of Cold War enmity.
At the stroke of midnight on July 20, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington and its US counterpart in Havana turned into full-fledged embassies. But Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez’s maiden visit to the US — with the added symbolism of raising the very flag that was taken down from the neoclassical building that had housed the Cuban embassy till January 3, 1961 — does not take away from the understatedness of this moment of history-making. A moment foretold when Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro announced on December 17, 2014, that full diplomatic ties would soon be restored.
That Washington and Havana decided to quietly turn the page — the Cuban flag was added, without ceremony, to the cluster at Foggy Bottom, while Old Glory awaits John Kerry’s visit to Havana in August — underscores this matter-of-factness and the hard work ahead. Republicans presidential hopefuls of Cuban descent threaten to turn the clock back to 1961. Cuba insists on speedily lifting the trade embargo. The question of reparations has been revived. But it’s American business that may turn out to be Havana’s best friend on the Hill, having sensed its opportunity for the very investment that will revive Cuba’s economy. Martí would say that man suffers because when he has no real afflictions, he invents some. The US-Cuban hostility has long exhausted its chapter in history.
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