NEWS & EVENTS
Hoffman Visits Cuba as Part of U.S. – Cuba Transportation & Logistics Delegation
I recently traveled to Cuba with a delegation from Kansas City Smart Port and the Greater Kansas City Foreign Trade Zone from Oct. 10 to 15. The trip was organized for us by the Kansas City chapter of People-to-People International. It was a strange, but very interesting, experience to be in a communist country with which the United States has been at odds (to say the least) since the late 1950s. However, the people, both government officials and private citizens, were very cordial and welcoming. Almost everyone spoke English. The literacy rate is said to be 99%. We were treated well everywhere we went. Cuba is about the size of Pennsylvania, and has about 11 million people. Havana is about the size of Kansas City with approximately 2 million people.
In recognition of the recent relaxation of U.S. rules against traveling to Cuba and in anticipation of possible further opening of business opportunities for U.S. companies there, the primary purpose of the trip was to learn about Cuban foreign investment laws and other laws and regulations regarding transportation, logistics services, warehousing, and distribution operations. The delegation met with high level officials from several Cuban government agencies, including the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Ministry of Foreign Trade & Investment, and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce. We toured Cuba’s modern new seaport, the Port of Mariel. We learned a lot about the Cuban government’s priorities and projects, and the many hoops through which foreign businesses must jump in order to do business there.
In addition to our meetings with government officials we had time to visit several historical and cultural sites, including Revolution Square (where Fidel used to give his 4-hour speeches). We saw a couple of places associated with Ernest Hemingway including his home and La Floridita (where the daiquiri was invented) one of his favorite Havana bars. Of course, we went to a cigar factory and saw where and how some of the best cigars in the world are made. We also rode in some of the coolest old American cars that have been maintained, repainted, and reupholstered exquisitely.
One of the true highlights of the trip was the visit we made to a day-care facility operated by the Sisters of the Love of God. Originally from Portugal, Sister Theresa is 90 years old, stands 4’8” tall, and never takes “no” for an answer! Remember that Cuba is still officially an atheist country, although churches do exist there. Private and parochial schools are forbidden. Day-care facilities and schools are run by the Cuban government. However, day-care is only available for working mothers whose children are at least 2 years old. School is mandatory beginning at age 5. For various reasons, not all mothers of children under age 5 are able to work. A few years ago, Sister Theresa convinced the government to allow her to provide day-care on church property for children in that situation. Because “her” children did so well when they finally went to school at age 5, Sister Theresa was eventually able to convince the government to give her a large old home in order to accommodate more children. Now the Sisters provide day-care for 50 2-year olds, 50 3-year olds, and 50 4-year olds. In addition to the day-care work, Sister Theresa has also added a separate maternity home for unwed old girls ages 12 to16.
All in all, it was a wonderful learning experience that I believe will eventually prove valuable to Dysart Taylor clients.