I kinda can’t believe I haven’t covered this yet, but I really should:
I am an American.
I am not in Cuba illegally.
Rules of Engagment
I don’t have an extra passport or Cuban family. I flew directly from Miami to Havana. Both governments know I’m here. Northeastern University applied for the licenses for all eight students and our accompanying professors. I have a visa, which has been renewed. We’re required to be here for at least ten weeks because changes made by Bush jr., and we’re required by CASA’s schedule to only stay here twelve weeks.
I am allowed to bring home art, handicrafts and educational materials. No cigars, no rum. Cuba would let me–America will not.
Well, How Did I Get Here?
That being said, it’s not hard to come here illegally. Many more Americans than you would suspect come and go. And some just come–but that’s another story. You can fly through Canada, Jamaica, Cancun, Haiti, the Bahamas or any other Caribbean country. From what I’ve heard, Cuba won’t stamp your passport (my visa is removable), and illegal travelers talk of slipping some money in your passport upon return to
There are many ways to come here legally. If you are a diplomat, an athlete, a student or a Cuban-American you can apply for specific visas. Humanitarians and business people can also come, under certain circumstances.
The Travel Ban
There’s also the oft-overlooked fact that we are not actually banned from traveling here: we are only banned from spending money. That, coupled with the fact that few airlines and travel agents can fly us here make it pretty impossible to show up without crossing the line. The so-called “travel ban” is actually just an aspect of the economic embargo. The whole ordeal falls to the US Treasury, not the Department of State. So if you get into trouble, don’t hesitate to go to the US Special Interest Section–they promise not to report you to the treasury.
So if you’d like to come here, which I recommend doing at some point, see if you can apply for a visa legally. It’s a little time consuming, but it means not having to worry about any problems with customs. And if you do come illegally?
Don’t lie, don’t have any Cuban money on you, and just plead the 5th.