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BC Experts: US-Cuba

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Westy Egmont

Westy Egmont
Associate Professor & Director of the Immigrant Integration Lab

Boston College School of Social Work

617-448-9770 (cell)

“I experienced the Cuban people as wonderful and gracious. I was touched by the fact that waiters and drivers and staff in the hotel thanked me for coming to Cuba. They said, ‘We know as an American you’ve had to pay extra and go out of your way to do this but we wanted to say thanks for coming.’ I found it touching and I appreciated it. The Cubans are eager for a normalization of relations. Almost every Cuban I know watches American television; almost every Cuban I know has relatives in the United States and their experience of connectedness is significant. There are no pictures of Fidel Castro in the squares; they are a people aspiring to breathe free, to be able to have more economic opportunity, and who have suffered under an embargo that has left the country without capital, without opportunity for economic development, deprived of a lot of normalization of international commerce which affects the daily life of the people.

President Obama is going to take enormous grief for doing this, yet another humanitarian correction of a historic wrong. I think if we put the United States values of family and of the global economy and the normalization of trade relations out front, we’ll see this is not so much a political move  as it is a correction of a wrong that will be good for all parties, particularly for the Cuban American people.”


Elizabeth GoizuetaElizabeth Goizueta
Lecturer, Romance Languages and Literatures
Boston College;

“I think normalizing relations is going to give the Cuban people great hope in terms of more contact, communication, and better understanding. My sense and experience in traveling to Cuba has always been the people are willing and open to dialogue.

I believe the possibility of increased cultural exchanges will benefit the peoples of both countries. These types of cultural exchanges promote common interests, communication and, ultimately, mutual understanding.  It is in our own interest to make the riches of the U.S. cultural heritage accessible to the people of Cuba, thereby promoting the ideals that our peoples share. My sense in working with the Cubans on the island as well as Cuban-Americans in Miami and elsewhere in the US is that there is a sincere desire to engage in cultural conversation to bridge the gap between the seemingly overwhelming political issues.  Perhaps these exchanges can contribute to the much-needed processes of reconciliation between the peoples of our countries.”


James BretzkeFather James Bretzke, S.J.,
Professor, School of Theology and Ministry
Boston College
(617) 775-9665 (cell);

“It’s quiet remarkable in that the Pope had made explicit diplomatic overtures to two world leaders. In the past when popes made overtures, they tended to stay above the fray and made rather general comments on the need to avoid war or to seek peace together. Here the pope is taking a more direct line and it carries with it certain risk - the risk being if he were rebuffed or ignored or if these things are unsuccessful, his prestige would be lowered, but I think he was willing to take that risk. 

The overture of Pope Francis reminds me of the similar overture that President Jimmy Carter took a generation ago in bringing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat together for the Camp David Accords. Carter had a tough time and it almost fell apart but he was tenacious in this. I don’t know if Pope Francis had Carter in mind  but I think he certainly adopted a similar strategy. 

This overture to a certain extent has been prepared by Pope John Paul II and to a lesser extent Pope Benedict because they have in their own ways made overtures to the Cuban people and have maintained good relations with the United States. In this sense, while Pope Francis is doing something new strategically, I think he is building concretely on the initiatives taken by his two immediate predecessors.”


Media Note: For assistance or to request a source on another topic, please contact Sean Hennessey, BC Office of News & Public Affairs: 617-552-3630 (o); (617) 943-4323 (c)

Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html

Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

(617) 552-3630 (office)
(617) 943-4323 (cell)