George Graham

Bienvenidos, amigos cubanos!



I recall hearing, when I was about six or seven years old, that my mother’s father, Mass Con, had lived in Cuba. I think he was managing a sugar cane plantation. The thing that struck me most about the story was that he had told my mother the children in Cuba went stark naked when they were very young, but wore boots because of the snakes.

We didn’t have any poisonous snakes in Jamaica. The “sly mongoose” had wiped them out (before turning on the bird population – and on Bedward’s chickens).  So I was quite envious of the Cuban children who had such exotic lives.

When our family visited my mother’s Aunt Lucy in Kingston, I would sometimes see groups of Cuban sailors walking down Belmont Road to the docks. And my mother used to take me to Cuba Elegante to get my hair cut.

Later,  in my teens, I would sit on the verandah at Paradise Estate and try to make out the Cuban coastline on the horizon.

What’s more, I have listened to more Cuban music than I wanted to hear. The Cuban radio stations overwhelmed the Jamaican airwaves, and when I lived in Haiti, they were even more dominant.

Many, many years later, after I had come to live in the United States, my grown daughter, Grace, married a really nice young man, Frank, who had been airlifted out of Castro’s Cuba as a tot. They have two of the finest sons in the universe, Jonathan and Adam.

So I feel as if I have a special relationship with Cuba. It’s a wonder CNN hasn’t called on me to provide expertise on the latest breaking news from the island.

And I know you can’t wait to hear my expert views.

At the risk of antagonizing Frank’s brother, Manuel (and Senator Marco Rubio), I applaud President Obama’s decision to end America’s economic embargo of Cuba.

No, I am not a Communist.

But I have long wondered why America punishes the Cuban people, who have always seemed so friendly to America, because they’re ruled (whether they like it or not) by a Communist megalomaniac.

It seems quite unfair to me. I suspect successive American regimes perpetuated the Cuban embargo because they were reluctant to infuriate the thousands of refugees who had left their lives and belongings behind to escape Castro’s bloodbath.

But a lot of water has flowed under that bridge. Fidel is an old, old man. Cuba is still Communist but not as aggressively as it used to be. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cuba adopts more of a free-market approach once it reopens its doors to American trade.

The end of the Cuban embargo will be good for America, too. I just read an article in spelling out the economic opportunities for American business, especially in Gulf Coast communities like New Orleans.

So, let the anti-Castro faction rage if they must. Let the Miami streets ring with their wrath. It’s time to welcome the Cuban people back into the brotherhood of the Americas.

Click for the Salon article.

Click for more on the end of the embargo.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for