The US rapprochement with Cuba in 2015 was heralded as a seismic diplomatic breakthrough, one that brought an end to decades of enmity. But as tourists now flood the country, there are signs that the union may be more problematic than either side anticipated. While goods and greater communication are welcome on an island where deprivation has long been a way of life, they are already altering the fabric of Cuban life.
Both sides of the equation stand to benefit from the restored relations. Tourism has already transformed Havana and is generating a steady stream of much needed cash. For the US, the business prospects are tantalizing. So, too, the US is likely to benefit from Cuba's innovative research in the area of vaccines such as CimaVax, a cancer vaccine expected to undergo trials in a NY lab soon.
But for Cuba, the marriage comes at a price. Already, the influx of cash is generating a sharp disparity between the haves and have nots in Cuban society, with those of color at the bottom of the ladder. Some families are putting their new money towards private tutors for their children, further widening the gap. As America moves in, what will happen to the country's health care system, one of the showpieces of the revolution? Will violent crime, now highly uncommon, increase?
Cubans on both sides of the Straits of Florida sense a shifting of values. Since President Obama increased the amount of money and goods that families can send to relatives on the island, some Miami Cubans say their phones ring incessantly with requests. But these days, those back home aren't asking for milk and detergent.
“They want cell phones, and not just any phones. They want the latest phones,” declares Sandy Cordero, a Cuban who lives in Miami. “I am like, are you kidding me? I am going to send you my hard earned money so you can have random chit chat on your phone? This is a whole different generation already.”