The distance between the United States and Cuba cannot be measured in terms of distance, though the 90-mile gap across the Straits of Florida is stunningly short. The cessation of commercial, economic, and financial relations stopped the island in its tracks in the early 1960s, widening that insignificant distance to a gulf. For decades, we Americans knew nothing of the “forbidden island”. Despite the loosening of some restrictions by President Obama in 2014, Cuba remains one of the five most difficult countries for Americans to enter, keeping company with the likes of North Korea and Angola.
As a result of President Obama’s initial steps to relax tensions, however, Cuba has seen a dramatic increase in visitors from the United States. These visitors will find a population ready and willing to engage with their neighbors. They will find a fiercely independent and entrepreneurial spirit born out of the experience of privation. They will find, as we did, an insistent desire to interact with Americans and to improve a stagnated relationship.
Although the embargo continues, the veil has been lifted between our two countries as more Americans find a way to travel to the island. We are in the moment where the arts can have the highest impact. The experience of shared artistry between the young people of our two countries will create a continuous dialogue that knows no language or cultural barrier, and that cannot be subject to the whims of politicians. This is why the time is right for the Cuban American Youth Orchestra.