Today has been a historic day. President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have come together to announce an easement on the 50+ year embargo that has all but stifled the relationship between the neighboring nations. It is a major step in a path that could very well lead to the end of the stalemate that has caused suffering for so many, and while political parties have already started mounting their verbal attacks on Obama's move, I can't help but think of how it affects the many Cuban friends that made my two stays in Havana such an unbelievable experience.
My thoughts wander to Yessica, my patient dance partner that talked of visiting Italy if she could ever afford a travel visa, to Laura and her family, who wholeheartedly adopted our entire class into their loud, chaotic, and laughter-filled circle, and to Ruben, a skater that, without a steady stream of supplies from the U.S., kept his board rolling on a steady diet of spliced wire and bumper stickers.
These are the people that will finally benefit from an announcement like today's. Sure, maybe a few more people will get Cuban cigars in their stockings, and maybe it will be easier to plan a trip to the island (a trip I highly recommend to all of my travel friends), but it also means a new chapter for so many that have made things work in next-to-impossible conditions for far too long.
The above photo is perhaps my favorite in the whole world. It was taken by my friend Delia and it shows Ruben (green shirt), his skate friend Roberto, and me going through photos during a skate session on the Prada in Havana. The mutual joy and respect in the photo, them for my shot and me for the opportunity to hang with such an inspiring group of guys, is so locked into this moment. It's one of those shots that brings you back no matter where you're at in life. When I think about Cuba and everything that is going on, I think back on this day, and these people.
There is still much to be done on both sides to make this a truly sustainable relationship, but if this truly is the tipping point for an open Cuban border, I'm excited to see my friends again, and can't wait to repay the favor.