Cuba architecture. We might just see it yet.

It’s Thursday morning, I just got off the phone with my contact at the Department of Commerce and it sounds like I will get word on my application requesting to “export” Pandora to Cuba in about a week.  That’s good news as that application is one of two key parts of the puzzle regarding our hoped for visit to Cuba this winter.  Based on our conversation, I am optimistic.

As you may recall, another key question in all of this has been the regulations on visiting Cuba from a third country, in our case, The Bahamas.  Our plan, for some very practical reasons, such as the prevailing winds, mean that we’d like to travel to Cuba from the Bahamas, head south, transit the Windward Passage and explore the southern coast of Cuba prior to visiting Havana and heading back to the US.  The good news is that as of November the rules governing travel to Cuba by private vessel were further loosened.  In the recent past, you were required to travel to Cuba directly from the US and return directly to a US port, without a stop in any other country.  Now, that restriction has been lifted as reported in a very recent document from the Treasury.    If you want to read the whole thing, you can refer to item #32 but this is what is says and it’s a major change.

32. As an authorized traveler, may I travel from a third country to Cuba and from Cuba to a third country? Yes, a person subject to U.S. jurisdiction engaging in authorized travel-related transactions may travel to Cuba from a third country or to a third country from Cuba. Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to and from Cuba via a third country may only do so if their travel-related transactions are authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, and are subject to the same restrictions and requirements as persons traveling directly from the United States.”

As I have mentioned, I need to gain approval to “export” Pandora as well as get a formal “general license” for me and Brenda to visit for longer than two weeks. For a visit of two weeks or less, you can do so under a “self directed license” as long as you believe that you satisfy the requirements for that category of travel. However, you must keep records for five years following your visit and be prepared to share them with Uncle Sam if he asks.

As far as approval to “export”  Pandora is concerned, that’s looking positive and I expect to hear in about a week.  fingers crossed.  It will likely take longer for a decision on our application under the “Journalistic activity” statute but we have our fingers crossed.    In case you are interested, here’s the wording for the current statute within that category.

“9. Who is generally authorized to engage in travel and travel-related transactions for “journalistic activity”? OFAC has issued an expanded general license that incorporates prior specific licensing policy and authorizes, subject to conditions, travel-related transactions and other transactions that are directly incident to journalistic activities in Cuba. Among other things, this general license authorizes, subject to conditions, full-time journalists, supporting broadcast or technical personnel, and freelance journalists to travel to Cuba. The traveler’s schedule of activities must not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule. An entire group does not qualify for the general license merely because some members of the group qualify individually. For a complete description of what this general license authorizes and the restrictions that apply, please see 31 CFR § 515.563.”

In my last post I included a short video of travel in Cuba on an “ultra low budget”. I’ll admit that it highlighted a travel approach that was a bit rougher than Brenda would likely be interested in (roaches are not her thing) so today I’ll highlight two videos that I think are more her speed.  To that point, my brother Bill has questioned me as to why we want to go to Cuba so hopefully these clips will answer that question.  Are you listening Bill?

Architecture has always fascinated me, in part because my late Father was publisher of an architectural magazine for many years and the possibility of seeing colonial architecture, some in rough shape for sure, is high on my list.

As no blog post is complete without a picture or video, it’s the whole “picture is worth a thousand word thing”, I thought that you might enjoy this short five minute clip of traveling around Cuba and it’s architecture, believed by many to be some of the finest from the Colonial Period in the Caribbean.  The segment also touches on Santiago de Cuba. the second largest city in Cuba which has been designated by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a World Heritage Site, for it’s cultural and architectural significance.  It’s about 35 miles west of Guantanamo Bay (a place we CAN’T visit) and  likely our first stop on the southern coast.  There is also discussion of Trinidad de Cuba which we hope to visit as well.  I was also intrigued by a PBS report on the state of architecture in Cuba in htis segment.  Check it out.Pretty amazing stuff and I sure hope that the opening of Cuba and the development what will quickly occur, doesn’t destroy the “time capsule” charm of today’s Cuba.

Oh yeah.  One more thing Bill. Here are the rules about bringing rum to the US from Cuba.  If I were you, I’d be cautiously optimistic about there being some Cuban rum in your future.

“30. Can I purchase Cuban-origin cigars and/or Cuban-origin rum or other alcohol while traveling in Cuba? Persons authorized to travel to Cuba may purchase alcohol and tobacco products while in Cuba for personal consumption while there. Authorized travelers may return to the United States with UPDATED NOVEMBER 25, 2015 8 up to $100 worth of alcohol and/or tobacco products acquired in Cuba in accompanied baggage, for personal use only.”

Let’s hope that it’s cheap so I can afford to bring some back.  Cheap or not, I’ll just have to work hard to focus on the “personal consumption while there” part while I am visiting.  Boy, I sure hope that we get to go.  Uncle Sam, are you listening?

And, if all of this isn’t enough of a reason to visit.   For now, Cuba is one of very few spots you might want to visit where you won’t find a single Starbucks or McDonalds.  Now that is something to look forward to.

Let’s hope that we get to go soon.




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