The Cuban people survive, thrive by helping each other
Commitment to one another helps Cubans survive
Warm, loving atmosphere, but housing, water and food fall short
Cuban market ripe for U.S. business investment
BY TODD A. LANDRY
After six days in Cuba and a short night of sleep, I boarded the bus
early on a Saturday morning and left for home.
Just 45 minutes after my plane took off, I could see Miami through the
windows. A vibrant modern city along the ocean shoreline with gleaming
skyscrapers and busy highways. Only an hour’s flight separates the two
worlds of Havana and Miami.
For six days, I had walked around Havana and the surrounding areas.
I saw buildings in disrepair that doubled as homes; shook hands with
loving caregivers of children and the intellectually disabled with no
running water in bathrooms, let alone air conditioning; and watched as
teachers taught eager students without textbooks, with chalk in short
I was honored to join a diverse delegation of community leaders,
educators, researchers and people from children and family service
programs to learn from Cuba’s strong community-based practices.
Despite the country’s crumbling infrastructure, the spirit of the Cuban
people has somehow managed to not only survive, but, in some ways,
thrive through their commitment to one another.
The care I witnessed from the staff at the children’s shelter was as
warm and loving as anyone could ever hope. It made me wonder just how
excellent things could be if the housing conditions, water and food were
of the same quality as that staff’s loving care.
Cuba’s birthrate is shockingly low, and the country has the world’s
third-highest abortion rate. Abandoned or orphaned children are rarely
adopted. Rather, they age out of children’s homes at 18.
These facts juxtaposed against Cubans’ love of family and community
perfectly illustrate that most decisions are made based under an
umbrella of socialism, as well as on the economic hardships of the Cuban
In the case of low birthrates, families are choosing to have (or care
for) fewer children, primarily due to the economic challenges and
housing shortages. This aging of the overall population causes even more
economic concern for the future.
The Cuban government appears to be walking a fine line between
maintaining control and introducing capitalistic principles to the
country. The recent step toward normalizing relations with the United
States is a good example.
Cuba’s new demand of reparations, including $800 billion in
compensation, as a condition of full normalization, seems to be a
temporary barrier to slow down the process to a speed of their liking.
That is a tough tactic, since the country needs new investment soon to
improve its infrastructure and economy.
From a U.S. citizen’s perspective, I believe it to be in our best
interest to normalize relations. Among other reasons, the Cuban market
is ripe for U.S. businesses.
Technology is in high demand, basic infrastructure needs are evident
everywhere, and the Cuban people I spoke with want American goods in
From a business perspective, Cuba seems to be a good market for U.S.
I realize this argument is fraught with political disagreement. For
those who believe an uprising from the Cuban people will overthrow the
government, my opinion is that if that did not happen in the “special
period” in the 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba lost most
of its economic support, it likely won’t happen soon.
Meanwhile, investments from other countries like China appear to be
increasing. If we didn’t like Russia having a strong base in Cuba in the
1960s, it’s hard to imagine it’s in our benefit that China have one today.
Put simply, I believe it’s in our national interests to be in Cuba.
I continue to recall images of the people of Havana, who repeatedly and
genuinely said how much they love the United States and want us in their
We have so much in common with the people of Cuba. After six days, I
walked away feeling it is the right time to move forward.
Todd A. Landry is the CEO of Lena Pope in Fort Worth and also serves as
board chairman of the Child Welfare League of America. CWLA, in
partnership with the Coalition for Research to Practice, organized the
child welfare delegation trip to Cuba. Visit Landry’s Cuba blog at
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