The recent opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba has one Iowa State University professor optimistic for the future of the two countries.
Rose Caraway, assistant professor of religious studies at ISU, attended a conference in Cuba that week and extended her trip to attend the grand opening of the embassy in Havana on July 20. During the ceremony, she said the atmosphere in the crowd – composed of international press, Cuban citizens and plenty of American students – was “positive.”
“It was finally this sense that it’s been a long time coming and it should’ve been done earlier,” she said. “I’m very glad that I extended the trip to be able to be there on that historic day after 54 years of really beginning this step forward and re-establishing an official political relationship.”
Caraway first visited Cuba almost 13 years ago on a study abroad trip, but she said she was driven to study the country as early as the eighth grade, when her Spanish teacher showed photos of her working with Cuban youth.
Now, Caraway studies religion and society in Cuba, as well as food production in the country and its relation to climate change. Caraway said that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba was forced to learn how to respond to a food crisis, but that work has since developed into the country’s use of permaculture and improved sustainable agriculture.
Caraway said that while the day-to-day interactions between Cubans and U.S. citizens have included “a lot of exchange and friendliness and open dialogue,” an improved political relationship could mutually benefit both countries in multiple ways, especially when it comes to developing future food production.
“When trade eventually does happen, there’s the mutual benefit as far as increased material goods and resources and technology, but we have a lot to learn from each other,” she said. “Given the risk of climate change on things that could happen to production, as far as corn and soy here, the risks are going to be worth looking into and we can learn from them as far as how to respond to crisis.”
Caraway said that while there is still some tension and the road to a new partnership is still a long one, she is optimistic for a positive conversation between the two countries.
“In terms of everyday relations, the hope is the official opening will lead to better opportunities for people on both sides,” she said. “Being able to reconcile our differences, and also finding what we have in common and our common problems, will be important with that.”
By Julie Ferrell, Ames Tribune
August 7, 2015