Roland, author of so many books including his recent Lunch with Buddha (as well as a novel about Cuba completely unrelated to this story, Fidel's Last Days), traveled "90 Miles From Home" (see Warren Miller's 1961 book by that title) recently on assignment for a golf magazine, picked up a few souvenirs (total value = $75), and had them confiscated at his port of re-entry, Burlington, VT. Irony aside that the only state with a "self-described democratic socialist" as senator should be the customs gate that enforces our antiquated embargo of Cuban imports, Roland, as usual, reflects thoughtfully on why it's time to change our policies in "A new path to Cuba: It’s time the US admitted the embargo doesn’t work." Note also that instead of doing what countless other visitors to Cuba likely do -- pretend that they were in Mexico or Canada, allowing custom officials to look the other way -- Roland went for the true story, which ultimately makes for a better one.
Here's the opening to whet your clicking:
On my way home from Cuba the other day — Havana via Montreal — I had all my souvenirs confiscated at the US-Canada border. I’d spent a week in Castro country and had loaded up on about $75 worth of T-shirts and small gifts. Instead of lying to the customs officials and saying I’d been in Montreal visiting friends, which would have been easy enough, I decided to tell them the real story: I’d gone to Cuba on an assignment for a golf magazine. Good-bye, T-shirts.
I’m not really blaming the rules-bound customs guys at the border checkpoint north of Burlington, Vt. US law says that any goods purchased in Cuba — with the strange exception of literature — must be confiscated. “You should have checked the State Department website,’’ one of them told me, and he was correct. But setting my own travel sloppiness aside, the law that says you can’t bring home a small bag of gifts from Cuba is absurd. If I remember right, we lost 58,000 good Americans in Vietnam, and 40 years later you can bring home just about anything from that nation. China, Russia, Albania, Burma, the dictatorships of Africa — please, spend some money there, bring home souvenirs for your kids.
But don’t spend a peso in Cuba...
PS: This makes me want to create a new category: Common Sense, but alas I fear it would lack for entries.