President Barack Obama, his lovely wife Michelle, and their two beautiful daughters, Sasha and Malia, disembarked Air Force One in Havana, Cuba, this past Saturday as the family began an historic three-day trip to the island nation that has been closed off to much of the citizenry of the United States since before the President was even born. Though they left the big plane in a rainstorm, the family was all smiles and elegance as they stepped onto the tarmac and into history.
More than a thousand hangers-on came with or followed the Obama's from the United States to Cuba. The entourage filling up Havana hotel rooms included, American businessmen, congressmen, political aids and government functionaries, baseball players, and many others who hoped to profit one way or another through increased normalization of relations between the former cold war adversaries.
During the brief visit which ends today, the President met with President Raul Castro of Cuba (the fourth time that they had the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting since both men became the leaders of their respective countries), toured old Havana, and placed a wreath at the memorial to Jose Marti, the Cuban patriot and poet.
At some point during Monday's activities, a photographer managed to snap a picture of Obama at the Plaza de la Revolucion standing in front of the huge metal portrait of Che Guevara - and, right on cue, Fox and other dark forces of American journalism (sic) tried to make something sinister of it. No sooner had this conspiracy been hatched than responsible news sources countered with pictures of most other U.S. Presidents since Nixon standing in front of images of iconic revolutionaries. Obama continues to be held to different standards than all of his predecessors.
The Obama's will leave Cuba today after watching a professional baseball game between teams representing the two nations. They and their daughters will fly to Argentina for a brief vacation before the girls have to return to school from spring break next week.
(Historical Note: Calvin Coolidge is widely reported to have been the last sitting President to visit Cuba when he traveled there in 1928 - but he wasn't. Harry Truman stopped by the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1948 while he was serving as President. Jimmy Carter visited as an ex-President in March of 2011, and future President John F. Kennedy was familiar with the island during his recreational visits to Havana in the 1950's. And, of course, there was that Teddy Roosevelt fellow, also a pre-president, who went charging up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War. When it comes to American chief executives with a personal knowledge of Cuba, Barack Obama is just one of several.)
(Pa Rock's goal for this week is to learn to take a "selfie" so I can snap a photo of myself in front of the giant portrait of El Che. If I get a good one, it will be on my holiday card next winter!)
Que bola, Cuba?