25 years after the end of the Cold War, the final piece of ice melts.
Each generation has their own unforgettable event to symbolise progress and change for the better. Our parents had the moon landing and the march on Washington. Their parents had the Potsdam Agreement. Our older siblings had the fall of the Berlin wall.
And we’ve got 2015 — the reestablishment of US-Cuba diplomatic relations.
After over half a century of military hooks, political jabs, economic uppercuts — including the occasional failed haymaker (Bay of Pigs, anyone?) — the US and Cuba have officially ended their 54 year boxing match. Oh, what a time to be alive!
July 20th saw the reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington. Amidst shouts of ‘Cuba Libre’ and ‘Viva Cuba socialista’, the Cuban flag was raised above the former Interests Section (and before that embassy) building for the first time since diplomatic ties were cut in 1961.
Later in August the US will have their own inauguration in Havana to reopen the former US embassy, with Secretary of State John Kerry set to become the first of his position to visit Cuba in over 7 decades.
Verily, beyond this rosy image of renewed relations following ages of animosity is the reality that, indeed, there were over 50 years of icy hostilities between the two countries. The reconciliatory process is sure to take more than just a flag and a cheer. Secretary of State Kerry was quick to point this out, commenting: “This milestone does not signify an end to the many differences that still separate our governments.”
After all, a parade doesn’t gauze-up the wounds that a half-century bout cut open on both fighters’ faces. Still he reminds us, and those who oppose the thaw: “Nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past.”
So in the spirit of progress, diplomacy has already begun. Central to the Cuban government’s diplomatic demands are the “return of the illegally occupied territory of Guantánamo Bay”, and “the complete removal of the trade embargo”, which has for years suffocated the Cuban economy and the people within it.
However, despite President Obama being generally agreeable with such terms, passing the necessary legislation through a Congress he doesn’t particularly see eye-to-eye with will prove an arduous task.
Nevertheless, one can be hopeful. Cuba and the US have been culturally linked since long before the Cold War, with Cuban immigrants arriving in steady numbers since the 19th Century. One only needs to stroll through cities like Miami and New York to get an idea of how important this moment will be for millions. The middle-aged man who fled Cuba as a boy and couldn’t return home to see his parents, unsure whether they are even still alive.
The young girl whose grandparents tell vibrant stories of what life was like on the island, but would have never be able to experience the beauty of Havana with her own eyes. The aging man who left the US for Cuba in the spirit of revolutionary zeal, only to find decades later that the sparkle of young convictions can wear thin with time. There is now hope for these people, and others, to have a reunion, a discovery, and a return.
Hope is one of the most memorable of emotions. Thus this moment will be forever remembered, and perhaps even magnified with time.