Since President Obama announced that the U.S. would begin the process of normalizing relationships with Cuba, there have been many loud voices more than willing to offer opinions. But the cacophonous landscape is often more defined by extreme positions that - for the last few weeks -- have drowned out much-needed nuance. Poet Richard Blanco recently offered a much-needed nuanced response and raised some important questions about the impact of normalization outside the limited realm of politics.
The highly respected Cuban-American poet is likely best known for his reading at President Obama's second inauguration. His most recent book, the memoir The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, reflected on issues central to Blanco's poetry: namely, how and nationality place can mold identity -- both as an artist and a gay man.
Blanco has always had a complicated sense of his cultural identity, the son of Cuban immigrants spoke with Radio Boston about the historic shift in Cuban identity that would likely have to happen. Blanco raised questions "what it means to be Cuban in Miami and Cuban in Cuba," and how to have a "dialogue" about that.
Blanco also spoke of the "semi-transparent wall that exists between Cubans." What he elegantly called "an emotional embargo," the prevention of free exchange "even from artist to artist."
The poet sounded hopeful about reconciliation between the two countries, but also cautioned against over-romanticizing Cuba and its citizens. The goal, Blanco warned, shouldn't be about opening the island-nation simply so that tourists can sip mojitos on the beach, but rather "these normalizations...[should bring] greater democratic reforms and prosperity for the Cuban people."
Blanco also spoke about the surreal feelings that accompanied President Obama's decision, identifying a kind of loss from "build[ing] our lives around this paradigm that change was never going to happen."
Listen to the entire interview below, it begins at the 3:40 mark.