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Penn Law Travels to Cuba: A Dispatch

February 08, 2017

By: Allison Kowalski, L’17

February 8, 2017

Walking around the colorful streets of Havana is a disorienting experience. The buildings are antique, worn, crumbling, and full of life. The streets are full of people, tourists and locals alike. You’re always in earshot of music, live and recorded, which serves as a type of soundtrack for your wanderings. In many parts of the city, there is a noticeable lack of storefronts. If you need to buy something, good luck. Your only chance is to find someone who can direct you to the right place, and even then, you need to hope they have it in stock that day. Shortages are common; rations are prevalent. Cubans spend much of their time just trying to survive, trying to “resolver” their problems, which leads to a very creative atmosphere. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and Cubans are known for their creative attempts to compensate for a staggering lack of resources. All this to say, Cuba is different than any country I have visited, and it fascinates me.

Through a global research seminar at Penn Law, I was able to travel to Cuba for a week to speak to a variety of individuals about Cuba’s past, modern reforms, and future government without a Castro at the head. This is a crucial transition period for Cubans as they face the prospect of an increased role of the private sector domestically and await the implications of a Trump presidency on the previously thawing U.S. – Cuban relations.