Cuba: The Embargo Wall

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”

Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Two human beings passed abreast through a wall yesterday: the invisible wall between the U.S. and Cuba.

The wall was built by human hands. It’s coming down by human hands. Like the Berlin Wall and “the Iron Curtain” that went up during the Cold War between the East and West.

Here in the States the story was that the wall and the curtain had gone up to keep people in. And that’s what I thought until the summer of 1966 while living “behind” the wall with the Schulz family in Bratislava as The Experiment in International Living’s Chicago Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

A visitor from the West was immediately struck by the absence of bill boards. There were no advertisements like in Chicago. Bratislava struck me at first glance as a gray place, a dull place, a colorless place, a depressing place. But depression and beauty are in the eye of the beholder.

“The wall isn’t there to keep us in,” said my hosts at the third floor walk-up apartment at #7 Legionarska Street. “It’s there to keep you OUT.” Their story was altogether different. They were trying to keep Western materialism, Western greed and commercialism on the other side of the wall.

They built the wall, they said, to make possible the building of a new character: a more generous, less predatory, more social community beyond the old disparities of wealth and poverty.

“Today Robert Fronts-Diaz, who owns a Twin Cities translation and communications business, says the U.S. embargo was ‘an opportunity for Cuba to build character… Since I was a little kid, I wanted the Cuban embargo to be lifted,’ Fonts-Diaz said, his voice breaking with emotion. ‘I am very deeply touched that my request has been fulfilled,’” [“For state’s Cuban, change was a long time coming,” StarTribune, Dec. 18, 2014]

“SOMETHING there is that doesn’t love a wall….” In the end, over time, they all come down

[Eternity] “spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.”