Esther Allen, a professor at Baruch College, City University of New York, is the editor and translator of José Martí: Selected Writings (Penguin Classics). She is currently writing a biography of José Martí.

Cuba: We Never Left

Havana, Cuba, 2015

The hoisting of the Star-Spangled Banner in Havana on Friday, for the first time in more than half a century, has been met with perplexing and contradictory reactions in the United States. Such are the two faces of our simplified understanding of the Republic of Cuba: that only we in the US can save it, or that, by our very presence, we will inevitably destroy all the things that make it appealing to us. Neither view is shared by the Cuban people I talked to on the island this spring.

Havana: The State Retreats

A woman taking down laundry in the building that houses the Paladar La Guarida in Central Havana shortly after Raúl Castro came to power, April 2008; photograph by Mark Gong
On my first visit to Cuba in ten years, I had the chance to observe the first signs of the dismantling of this gigantic state, visibly in retreat. I saw the detritus left behind: the disaster of a dysfunctional economy and a deep financial crisis aggravated by a dual currency system. All amid the growing discontent of the population and surging dissidence.