Instead I saw mostly ordinary Cubans conversing in hushed tones and at least two “tours” of mostly elderly individuals with their giveaway tags and complimentary travel bags advertising their cultural, religious or educational adventure, having probably signed up by just Googling “Cuba Travel”. Miami to Havana is a very short flight – 40 minutes – and was barely enough time to fill out my Cuba entry customs form and be told not to lose the pink copy that would be returned to me lest I wanted to extend my stay indefinitely.

It was cloudy – not much to see – until suddenly, there it was – Cuba – 1,000 feet below.

John Mc Intire is Chairman of the Board of Cuba Emprende, which is completely separate from CSG but has benefitted from the financial support of several CSG members as well as other interested Cuban exiles.

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Large squares of farmland, some green, some brown or yellow, and scattered gray buildings, no different than what you see approaching Kansas or Tokyo.

But wait, the browns were a little tired and the greens not quite verdant.

The first thought that came to mind was one that I will never forget.

Cuba was no longer just a memory or an idea, something that you talked or argued about but couldn’t really relate to.

S., whereas my younger sister continued her education exclusively in Buenos Aires. S.-educated siblings eventually returned to Argentina, where together with my younger sister they all still live, having married Argentines and raised Argentine children. Our offspring seem proud to acknowledge that they are half Cuban/Argentines, but suspect that they feel no more Cuban than they do Argentine or British or American, since I did not emphasize their Cuban origins during their upbringing. This account of my return was written first and foremost for me, as I wanted to understand and record the strong cross-currents of emotion which I experienced like countless other Cubans have during their first trip back. The tunnel connecting D to E was another 10 minutes race walking at a New York pace. A quick phone call to the hotel: “Where the @*#% are you?!

But it is also for my wife and my children, as well as my siblings and their children, friends and anyone else who might have an interest in Cuba. I have had a long, successful career and I was too busy working, preferring to take my allotted vacation time visiting other family in Ireland, Argentina and Uruguay, where my parents had a summer home, which my sisters and I have kept. It may sound strange, but my two sisters have gone three times, and my father once and my mother twice before they passed away, so in some respects I felt I had returned vicariously through them, and experienced some of what they experienced through their pictures, stories and my younger sister’s book and journal about her Cuban travels. And finally my trip had a concrete purpose – visiting Cuba Emprende, which is fully described below. ” “Look for baggage claim – we are on the other side of security”.

And I also hope to inspire some Cubans who have been reluctant to return to reconsider. and Argentina – and one light blue – a Cuban passport with a special stamp that says “autorizado para entrar y salir de Cuba” -- authorized to enter and exit Cuba. DAY ONE After a vigorous, pre-dawn, in room workout based on the Canadian Royal Air Force routine I used to follow 35 years ago in our first New York City apartment (and as a result of which I was sore for the next three days), I met my fellow travelers in the hotel lobby promptly at a.m.

My trip was not a political statement but a personal journey of rediscovery, intimate and entirely mine. First was John Mc Intire, group leader, trip organizer and fellow member of the Cuba Study Group, sometimes referred to as the “CSG”..

DAY MINUS ONE I left the house, said goodbye to my wife and headed to La Guardia for the American Airlines p.m. The CSG is a not-for-profit organization comprised of Cuban American businessmen and women who believe that engagement, dialogue and the development of civil society is the most effective way to promote democratic change in Cuba.