Cuba Concerns

By Jean C. Whitney ’86 | Carol Tritschler ’81

I am writing in response to the story about Professor Al Montero’s visit to Cuba and the seminar he now teaches (“Back to the Future,” fall). I traveled to Cuba with my father in 1994, a time referred to as the periodo especial, or special period, characterized by fuel shortages and severe economic hardship. The Cuban economy has not recovered from this time of economic depression.

What I found missing in the story was mention of the effect that the U.S. policy has on the Cuban economy and Cuban people. In 1994 Cubans we talked to referred to the “double embargo” under which they lived, referring to the fall of the Soviet Union and the U.S. embargo that prevented the import of necessary goods, such as fuel, medicine, and daily supplies.

I, too, witnessed what Professor Montero described as resolver. But I became aware of the dark side of this necessity when we met a pediatric gastroenterologist who told us of the frequent operations he performed on young children who had inadvertently eaten lye and burned their esophagi. Their families had turned to making their own soap, which was not available in stores and was too expensive on the black market—both were direct results of the U.S. embargo.

Mention was made of the limited access the Cuban people have to information “about the outside world.” I would argue that it is critical for people in the United States to have access to information about the role our government plays in the challenges faced on a daily basis by the Cuban people. 

Jean C. Whitney ’86
Buxton, Maine

I applaud discussion of Cuba and Cuban-American relations in the Voice; however, the article focused too heavily on Professor Montero’s Cuban-exile perspective. Knowing the range of perspectives and insights of Carleton students, and with feedback from a contact at Carleton now, I know that Professor Montero’s Carleton class addressed a wide range of topics and perspectives, and I would have liked the article to reflect a broader perspective as well.

I encourage Voice readers to learn more about Cuba. For example, I volunteer with a group that shows and discusses documentary films on a range of peace and justice issues. A recent film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, shows the struggles and resiliency of the Cuban people after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 and the U.S. embargo cut off oil deliveries by half. The film shows how Cubans [faced a massive fuel crisis and] transitioned from highly mechanized agriculture to organic farming and urban gardens. As we approach Peak Oil [when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever], this film encourages us to transition to a lower-energy society to help save the planet and ourselves. Learn more at

Carol Tritschler ’81
Naperville, Ill.

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