On Sunday, Air Force One touched down in Havana, Cuba with passengers President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters stepping off to embark on a 2-day visit to the Caribbean island. With an umbrella covering them in the light rain, the First Family was greeted by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, NPR reported.
This trip isn’t some beachside family vacation: It’s a history-making event given that it’s the first time since 1928 that a sitting U.S. President has visited the island, ABC reported. POTUS joked, “Back in 1928, President Coolidge came on a battleship, it took him three days to get here. It only took me three hours.”
This trip is also a crucial opportunity for the U.S. and Cuba to work on mending their fractured relationship. Just 15 months ago, POTUS announced that the two countries would restore diplomatic ties after being at odds for some 50 years thanks to heavily sanctioned embargoes handed down during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
According to the Huffington Post, President Obama’s jam-packed itinerary includes numerous walking tours, sight-seeing events, catching a minor-league baseball game, visiting the U.S. Embassy and meeting with President Raul Castro, government officials and human rights activists. He also plans on getting better acquainted with the people of Cuba and to express this desire, he Tweeted the country asking them “What’s good, Cuba?”
The President will not be alone during meetings with Cuban officials. He is rolling deep with a robust Washington D.C. squad that consists of “39 members of Congress including five Republicans,” ABC noted.
While a trade embargo is still in place, that only Congress can lift, “over the past 15 months, the Administration has been chipping away at it, easing restrictions on both travel and commerce,” NPR noted. American travel to the island has increased a whopping 80 percent in the past year.
Yet, not everyone is feeling the love, reports show that there have been some protests against this visit, but the Washington Post pointed out that for many Afro-Cubans, POTUS’ trip is amplifying their Black pride.
“People here look at blacks like they’re the worst, and since Obama’s black it’s like we have a bit more status, here and over there,” said Rosa Lopez, who sells snacks in a public market. “Having a black president of the United States gives us just a little more pride.”
Many also hope this trip will inspire their own government to do more to help ease racial inequality on the island. “He’s black and in some moment of his life he must have realized that as an African-American he had to elevate his performance level because as a black person you have to work twice as hard to get the same result as a white,” Mauri said. “I identity a lot with him because of that,” 26-year old Yolanda Mauri told the Post.