Survive they have, boasting accomplishments that stymie others, by focusing on the culture of the arts and the mind. Cubans — we were impressed to observe on our trip — virtually wiped out illiteracy in one year and reinvented their own agricultural industry in a matter of two to three years. They export more home-grown medical doctors to the world’s needy than the World Health Organization, maintain life expectancy and birth rates equal to ours, have become an international magnet for the study of film, and seem to have eliminated extreme poverty. Yet today the average income there hovers around $32 a month.
History and human nature teach us that harsh measures can often provoke harsh reactions. Cuba reacted to our Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996 with a vote to make socialism permanent. The most recently reiterated condition to lifting the embargo is that Cuba moves toward democracy and a free economy. Perhaps it is time for us, too, to consider a change. If we eliminate the boundaries, what kind of blossoms might unfold?
Leasa Y. Lutes is a professor of foreign languages at Gordon College in Wenham. She lives in Beverly.