In January 2012 we visited Cuba to see the time capsule left by the fall of Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship and by the post-Soviet era drift of the past twenty years. “A beautiful tragedy,” novelist Robert Stone once called Cuba.
Most Americans traveling to Cuba—about 25,000 a year—have gone through Mexico and Canada to avoid detection for breaking the decades-long US trade embargo against Cuba. Going there wasn’t against US law but, until December 2014, when President Obama moved to normalize relations with Cuba, spending money there has been, and given the antagonism between the two nations, one guidebook fetchingly termed American travel to Cuba a “soft adventure.”
Entering Cuba not as tourists but as journalists heightened our awareness of the potential for official scrutiny. A Cuban Communist Party national conference would take place while we were there, and though foreign correspondents were barred, we’d follow the proceedings as we could.