Quo Vadis, Cuba? Questions and cautions for the island nation

Washington University students visit Callejon de Hamel in Havana. The community project features artwork inspired by Afro-Cuban traditions. (Photo: Elzbieta Sklodowska)

As the world marvels at the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, it is important to put recent changes in historical perspective, said Elzbieta Sklodowska, the Randolph Family Professor of Spanish in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Since Raul Castro took over as president in 2008 (de facto in 2006), Cuba has undergone countless reforms, easing the grip of the regime on the lives of its citizens,” said Sklodowska, who is working on a book about Cuban literature, art and film since the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991.

Though the embargo of course remains in place, Sklodowska, with colleague Joseph Schraibman, has been taking students to Cuba over spring break since 2001. She notes that the relative thaw has simplified questions of travel, and not just for presidents and rock stars.

“Simply by checking one of the boxes in the OFAC form, many people are able to qualify to travel legally on direct charter flights to Havana from Miami, Tampa, Los Angeles and a few other locations,” Sklodowska said.

Yet this new openness, with its promise of increased tourism and economic opportunity, also poses important questions about the island’s future.

Read the full story in The Source: WashU Expert: Quo Vadis, Cuba?.