Reader View: Cuba connection worth making

Congratulations, Santa Feans, for your interest in Cuba and for having the courage to travel and engage with the Cuban people. Many Santa Fe groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Folk Art Museum, Santa Fe Photo Workshops and SITE Santa Fe, have enjoyed the rich cultural experience of travel to Cuba these past years.

Santa Fe also continues it warm relationship with our Cuban Sister City, Holguin, through a recent visit and photo exhibition by Santa Fean Carl Moore at its annual Romerías de Mayo Festival.

I have also just returned from concert trip to Cuba and had the joy of working with talented Cuban musicians. Having had the opportunity of conducting in Cuba for the past 10 years with many different orchestras, I’ve been continually impressed with the high quality of Cuban musical organizations. It’s to the advantage of both of our countries to continue these cultural exchanges.

Unfortunately, the freedom to have open cultural exchange with Cuba is restricted by current U.S. policy toward free travel and the economic embargo. One aspect of this wrong-headed policy is especially onerous.

What does Cuba have in common with Iran, Syria and Sudan? They are all on the U.S. government’s list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” The presence of Cuba on this list symbolizes everything that’s wrong with our approach to Cuba. It’s based on a myth (that Cuban sponsors terrorist groups); it reinforces Cold War-era prejudices (that Cuba is an “enemy” we must isolate and oppose); it helps lock our foreign policy in stone. It prevents the United States from taking sensible steps toward normalizing relations with Cuba.

Fifty years of embargo isolating us from our friends in Cuba should no longer have a place in U.S. policy. Let’s join the rest of the world in recognizing that Cuba is not a threat but rather a friend and potential trade partner.

To play a part in this effort, please consider signing a petition to the Obama administration, asking that Cuba be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, sponsored by the Latin America Working Group (www.lawg.org). It will benefit both of our countries.

Bernard Rubenstein is an orchestra conductor, member of the city of Santa Fe Sister City Committee and president of the Santa Fe/Holguin (Cuba) Sister City Association.