Cuba appears to be in a historical moment.

In early December, Fidel Castro, the country’s long-time leader, died. It had been my assumption that his death was like the sun dropping out of the solar system for the long-stagnating island nation. Things were going to start to come apart, and soon.

I traveled to Cuba two weeks after his death with this in mind — expecting something, but not quite sure what.

Though I was born after the end of the Cold War, Castro was one of the few boogeymen of the era to retain his stature. Even as the Soviet Union disintegrated and Russia reassembled itself, and China underwent rapid economic growth, Cuba and Castro held resolute.

But he gave up power in 2006, to his brother Raul, and there have been shy signs of liberalization since. A series of economic reforms implemented at a snail’s pace since 2011 has allowed Cubans to open small businesses and invited foreign investment. In 2014, US President Barack Obama and Raul began a reconciliation that has reopened diplomatic relations, made it simpler for Americans — like me — to visit, and lifted some of the economic restrictions between the countries.

 

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