When it comes to US-Cuba relations, it is rare these days to see a sign that relations are improving. And it’s even rarer to see government officials from both countries sharing a positive moment together. But that’s just what happened this past Sunday during a morning sunrise in Havana, Cuba’s capital.
Raul Castro–along with his rumored successor, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel–were present along with three US Members of Congress for the unveiling of a statue of Cuban national hero Jose Marti. The statue was sponsored and funded by the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
The statue itself is a replica, with the original residing in Central Park, originally sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington at age 82 as a gift from the people of Cuba to the City of New York. Now, a duplicate resides in the heart of Cuba, delivered there by way of Port Everglades to the Cuban port of Mariel.
The Bronx Museum of Arts, which itself has old ties with Cuban state cultural institutions, raised $2.5 million for the statue, which features Jose Marti atop a rearing horse at the moment he was fatally shot during a battle against Spanish rule in 1895. The Chairman of the board of trustees of the Bronx Museum of Arts, Joseph Mizzi, said that the statue “symbolizes the friendship of the people” of both countries.
President of the Havana Heritage Foundation, which was one of the donors for the project, said that the fundraising effort reminded him of the French collection of money for the Statue of Liberty. “It’s the same type of symbol of friendship between people and Marti is also a symbol of freedom,” he said.
The project was kicked off during the Obama-era rapprochement and was just finished a few years later. The unveiling of the statue took place the morning after a massive parade that began on the steps of the University of Havana on Saturday night, winding through the streets of the capital.
The guests from the United States totaled about 300 people, which included donors to the statue fund, diplomats, cruise line executives, academics, and State Reps. Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, and Roger Marshal. The US congressional delegation exchanged greetings with Castro at the ceremony, who thanked them for coming.
Although the ceremony was the main event of the visit, the congressional delegation also kept busy during their stay. They arrived on Wednesday and met with government officials and private entrepreneurs before meeting up with the Cuban investigative team looking into the mysterious sonic attacks that have caused hearing loss and other serious symptoms in various foreign diplomats. On top of the physical effects of the attacks, the incidents have caused relations between the US and Cuba to deteriorate to their lowest point in many years.
Speaking about the visit with the Cuban investigative team, Representative Bass said, “They seem willing to cooperate and were perplexed by what is happening on our end. I think it’s important that science leads the way and not politics.”