Duck and Cover
Note to reader: The trip to Cuba for the California Wine Symposium was widely covered in the press last week but since I was there, I wanted to add my own first-hand views to what has been written but include some video clips And while this post is about wine and business, I had to show a video of an unbelievable Cuban percussion and dance group at the end. That's the passion and women part of the title but please read the business part before skipping to the end.
I remember walking to school shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were practicing ‘duck-and-cover’ drills in our classrooms, and we trained on what to do when we saw the blinding white flash. The propaganda video clip at the top is a great example of the beliefs of the day.
Walking to school in the early 60's, I’d plan where I would hide along the route just in case. One of the neighbors had a bomb shelter but after that, it was refrigerators in garages and fireplaces as the preferred hideouts. It was a discomforting time for the Country. President Kennedy embarrassed in the Bay of Pigs Invasion was staring down Khrushchev, the Premiere of the former USSR in a game of nuclear chicken with continental annihilation hanging in the balance.
With that as context, it’s surreal to find myself sitting in a bar in Havana Cuba writing this piece and participating in an official U.S. Trade Mission promoting California Wine. We're not promoting world peace or selling tractors. We're promoting a luxury product to a socialist country.
In the past 70 years executive orders have made it almost impossible to do anything with Cuba, but on this mission we are able to travel based on carve outs for agricultural products. People in the boomer generation never thought they would see Cuba in person. And while tourism from the US is still illegal, the fact that I’m here is a statement of how far relations between the countries have come.
This is a change that isn’t going to reverse course. While I doubt Cuba will ever return to a free-market economy given the scars and excesses that led to their Revolution, this change to allow greater openness will create large economic opportunities for those participating in rebuilding country, for businesses selling into a growth market, and for foreign investment partners.