A bit after noon on December 17, 2014, employees of the Museo Castillo de la Fuerza Real climbed the tower of the 16th century fortress, once home to Havana’s governor, to ring an ancient bell. It was an act of spontaneous celebration, reportedly repeated in church towers across Old Havana. The cause of the celebration, of course, was the unexpected news that Cuba and the United States had called for a truce of sorts in a war that most Americans rarely think about, but which casts a shadow on daily life in the Cuban capital.
As a result of fortuitous timing—unfortunately, I cannot claim to have predicted the about-face—I found myself in Havana on this historic day. I traveled to Cuba to participate in the thirteenth “series of conversations” between U.S. and Cuban academics who have devoted much of their lives to studying and trying to improve the dysfunctional relationship. I watched the speeches, first President Raúl Castro’s live and then an unedited, untranslated recording of President Barack Obama’s, in the Superior Institute for International Relations (ISRI). (more…)