Arthur Aidala wanted to make a big splash when he became president of the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA). So when he found out that a tourism group gave tours specifically for bar associations, he found his way.
From Feb. 29 through March 4, Aidala and 30 other members of the BBA, including four judges, went on a week-long trip to Havana, Cuba, that they will not soon forget.
“The overall trip vastly exceeded any expectations that I had for what this week would be like,” said Aidala. “We saw everything from small jazz bands to philharmonic-type orchestras, to modern dancing to Cuban music, and each and every one held your attention, made you excited and made you feel so fortunate that you were actually here experiencing it and living it.”
Aidala admitted that he expected Cuba to be as poor as some of the surrounding Caribbean countries, but was surprised by how well-off many of the people were and by the richness of Havana’s art and music scene.
“Last night, when we were out at one of the restaurants, past [BBA] President Greg Cerchione and I looked up and said that if we didn’t know where we were, we could have been on a street in Rome,” Aidala said. “It was eye-opening.”
Through daily lectures and adventures discovering the city of Havana, the BBA had the chance to see a Cuba that has transitioned from the rule of Fidel Castro to his brother Raul Castro and that has finally started opening up to private businesses and foreign investment.
“Right now, Cuba is like a dimmer switch on a light,” Aidala said. “It’s just going to go up, and it’s going to go up quickly. They have major infrastructure challenges ahead of them, from airports to trains, but when the embargo is lifted and the doors of capitalism come swinging open, major corporations are going to rush here from Boeing in the airplane industry, to the hotel industry and the major restaurant industry.
“Hopefully there will be a degree of regulation to not spoil the already-beautiful landscape and architecture and spirit.”
The trip provided members with a unique opportunity to see a country that has been closed off to the U.S. for more than 50 years. The experience also allowed BBA members in attendance to bond more than any networking event could have.
“By far, my favorite non-cultural aspect of the trip was how well all of us got along,” Aidala said. “In any group like this, there is usually someone dragging their feet, not having a good time and ruining it for others, but the 31 people on the trip got along and really complemented each other so well. This was something that none of us will ever forget.”
Rob Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle