For more than five decades, many Cuban-Americans could only dream of returning to the land of their ancestors. The embargo may have very clearly made travel nearly impossible from the United States to the Caribbean nation – though, of course, some made the trip anyway out of Canada and Mexico – but it was their loved ones’ painful memories of Fidel Castro’s rise to power and dictatorship that actually made it difficult to visit the island.
As the U.S. and Cuba continue working toward normalizing relations, U.S. citizens have started to head to the land of José Martí. And while the warming relationship between the two nations has been met with mixed reactions from Cuban-Americans, there are many who have similarly found themselves caught up in the excitement. These are exactly the kind of people four second-generation Cuban-Americans will reward with a free trip to Cuba this summer, according to the Miami New Times.
They recently launched CubaOne Foundation, a program modeled after Birthright Israel – a 7-day trip meant to connect young Jews to their culture. The idea for CubaOne came to Giancarlo Sopo, a 33-year-old publicist, when he visited Cuba for the first time late last year. He fell in love with the island, even though his family suffered there. Sopo’s late grandfather – a poet, psychiatrist, and Cuban Navy officer – died in 1959 (it’s strongly suggested that the government killed him), and his father went to jail before making it to Miami. Still, Giancarlo knew after finally getting to see Cuba with his own eyes that he wanted to provide this opportunity for other Cuban-Americans.
When he returned home, he connected with Cherice Cancio, Daniel Jimenez, and Andrew Jimenez, and they decided to launch CubaOne. The four pooled their money together, and will fund the first four trips (each will be a group of about 10 to 12 people) between July and January. After that, they hope to get funding from other nongovernmental groups to keep the program going. The trips are open to Cuban-Americans aged 22 to 35. Apply here.
Update, May 12, 11:08 a.m.: This story has been updated. The original version said CubaOne Foundation offered 10-day trips. The trips are actually a week long.