Cuba

C.M. Guerrero / El Nuevo Herald

The first pope from Latin America is visiting Cuba later this month. Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit the Communist dictatorship since Pope John Paul II visited the nation in 1998.

Accompanying Pope Francis on the trip will be Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Wenski spoke with WLRN about the church's relationship with Cubans. Here are five things we learned:

The church has done a lot of bridge-building since 1998.

Steve Dolinsky

A cubano sandwich in Cuba? That might be hard to find. Food writer Steve Dolinsky says the sandwich was actually created in Florida.

But don't fret. There are many delicious culinary options available on the menus in La Havana. Black beans, rice, plantains, picadillo (a dish made of ground beef, olives and raisins) — you can have them all in Cuba. But Dolinsky has made some of his more surprising food discoveries in paladares — restaurants in people's homes.

The paladares started in the 1990s, when the Cuban government allowed private businesses to open.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. ET

Secretary of State John Kerry presided over a ceremony reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana, including a flag-raising ceremony — an event that will mark the first time the Stars and Stripes have flown over a diplomatic compound there in 54 years.

Kerry, speaking before assembled dignitaries, remembered the strained history of U.S.-Cuba relations, including the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet Union was discovered to be siting nuclear rockets on the island nation.

Joyce Tenneson

When President Obama was sworn into office for his second term in January 2013, it was Miami-raised writer Richard Blanco who read the inaugural poem.

He was the first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet in U.S.  history. And now Blanco, a child of Cuban immigrants, will put his poetic stamp on another historic event -- the re-opening of a U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba.

Blanco, now a resident of Maine, was chosen to read his new poem during the re-opening ceremony before a crowd of Cuban officials and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

One day before the historic reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, former President Fidel Castro asserted in a newspaper column that the U.S. owes the island country "millions of dollars" as reparations for a decades-long embargo.

According to Agence France-Presse, Castro, who turned 89 Thursday, wrote: "Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations."

Tiffany Madera / Courtesy

 

They call themselves ABCs: American-born Cubans. Well before Cuba and the United States began to normalize relations this year, a crop of younger Cuban-Americans were working to engage the communist island.

Many Gen. X-ers, in particular, have challenged their parents and communities' wishes in an attempt to lift what some artists and writers have been calling the “emotional embargo” on Cubans on and off the island. 

The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce is using renewed relations between the Obama Administration and government of Cuba to re-establish the link between the “Cigar City” and Havana.

Larry Wilder is chairman of the chamber.  He said Havana and Ybor are a natural fit since the Cuban capital pretty much gave birth to Tampa's cigar industry when so many cigar workers moved here in the late 1800s.

Rob O'Neal / Havana Challenge

In May, five 16-foot Hobie Cat sailboats left Key West for the inaugural Havana Challenge sailing race to Cuba.

"Three of them were broken, one sank and one was ripped into pieces," said Joe Weatherby, one of the race organizers. The three "broken" boats were patched up enough to limp into Havana Harbor -- 10 hours after leaving Key West.

Discovery Channel

 

How often do you see a classic American car on the road?  Every week?  Once a month?  Once in a blue moon?

You know the kind: tail fins, mammoth headlights, painted from front grill to back bumper some sort of electric Crayola crayon color and looking like it was just driven straight off the set of “Grease.”

In Cuba, they’re all over the place. 

Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

The Cuban flag was raised in Washington, D.C. on Monday, marking the beginning of a new era in normalizing relations between the island and U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez held a press conference at the Department of State on Monday.

The two men acknowledged that there are still vast differences between the two governments -- one of those being the perception of human rights.

In Miami, some protestors gathered outside Versailles Cafe, to protest the opening of the embassy in Washington, D.C.

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