President Obama flew into Havana on Sunday on Air Force One. In 1928 the last U.S. president to visit Cuba, Calvin Coolidge, sailed into Havana Harbor aboard a battleship. “Silent Cal” liked a good cigar, but he didn’t drink any rum, watch baseball, or dance the rumba. He addressed the Pan American Conference, promising the hemisphere “peace and goodwill,” but the Platt Amendment was in effect, and Cubans knew American forces could invade their nation at the drop of Mr. Coolidge’s homburg. The president promised Cubans the U.S. would lower the sugar tariff that crippled their economy, but it never happened — and the tariff was later raised.
Today’s Cubans hope this visit turns out better, but they remember the last one, even if we don’t.
“Cuba, there’s where I’m going
Cuba, there’s where I’ll stay
Cuba, where wine is flowing
And where dark-eyed Stellas
Light their fellers’ Panatellas
Cuba, where all is happy
Cuba, where all is gay
Why don’t you plan a
Hop on a ship
And I’ll see you in C.U.B.A.”
— Irving Berlin (1920)
“Obama begins historic visit to Cuba,” Karen DeYoung, Nick Miroff and Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
“President Obama: When in Cuba, don’t do what Coolidge did,” Glenn Garvin, Miami Herald
“Obama’s Cuba visit signals US politics have shifted to match public opinion,” Dan Roberts, The Guardian
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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,
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