Holy Week this year will mark two major events occurring for the nation of Cuba. President Barack Obama will be visiting the island and will be solidifying the opening of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Travel restrictions have been relaxed and now more Americans will have the opportunity to visit Cuba. President Obama will visit with the Presidential leadership, visit the American embassy, and will take in an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National team. The other major event that will occur March 25, 2016, Good Friday will be a free concert by The Rolling Stones in Havana.
Perhaps, this is a strange paradox. For years, Cuba was perceived as being an isolated country, operating upon Marxist economic and political constructs. The nation has been known for its old colorful colonial architecture and for the old 1950's automobiles operating on Soviet auto parts that are seen on the streets. I remember as a child, the scary time of the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs during the administration of President John F. Kennedy. I also remember Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev going before the United Nations and banging his shoe on the podium while he referenced the United States with his slogan " We will bury you."
That was a long time ago. We are now living in a vastly different time. Globalization and the ever- increasing influence of global capitalism has changed circumstances remarkably. Even a semi-isolated nation like Cuba finds themselves needing to be open more to the greater world. Cuba is interested in further trade and the delivery of goods and services. The Wi-Fi reception is spotty and rare in the country currently, but one wonders how much longer that will remain given the current diplomatic initiatives.
A lot of Americans aren't really familiar with Cuba. There are remote memories of the 1950's when casinos and gambling were operative in Havana. The Michael Moore movie Sicko (2007) spotlighted, at that time, the socialized medicine system of the country and the fact that the health care was advanced and that the costs were minimal. Even Jackson Browne has observed.
I'm going to drink the rum mojito
and walk out on the Malecon
In one hand a Monte Cristo
and in the other an ice cream cone
-- Going Down To Cuba
This paints a rather idyllic picture complete with Caribbean breezes. Although this may be partially true, it certainly doesn't capture the whole picture. There are still political prisoners being incarcerated in Cuba. Democracy, as we know it here in the United States, is not something that is currently realized in Cuba. There is still the unresolved issues of the terrorist prison in Guantanamo Bay that will need to be addressed in these continuing diplomatic conversations.
So will President Obama drink a mojito? Will Mick Jagger swagger on stage wearing a fedora and smoking a hand-rolled Cuban cigar? Will he be chatty with the audience speaking in Spanish?
These are monumental times; a lot of changes are taking place. Holy Week is a good time to remember that change does bring forth new life. There are the themes of death and resurrection that we carry in our own lives and that we also carry collectively as people and citizens of the world.
Will this new initiative to Cuba bring forth peace, freedom and prosperity for all, or will this be "It's Only Rock And Roll, but I like it?" The answer is unknown. What is known, however, is that there is now the opportunity for dialogue and diplomacy with a country that was seen as the "enemy." There is the possibility that great proactive developments can occur that will improve the lives of many and that will strengthen the security of this strategic area of the Western Hemisphere.
May resurrection emerge from death for Cuba, for the United States and for all of our world now and always.
May it be so.