Even with seemingly insurmountable obstacles posed by the embargo, Cuba has rarely failed to capture the attention of North Americans. The thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba will likely pique already existing curiosity about an island and a people just ninety miles off US shores. The reestablishment of commercial flights and ferry service from the United States to Cuba and the piecemeal dismantlement of the economic embargo will only expand these opportunities for cultural exchange, study abroad, and student and faculty research.
As exciting as the possibilities of renewed relations might seem, the fragility of the US’s nascent engagement with Cubans demands that the hundreds of university students and ordinary North Americans who will undoubtedly travel to Cuba in the next several years serve as informed, culturally sensitive ambassadors in ways that few of their peers have been expected to do. The stakes of cultivating respectful relationships with Cuban counterparts are now greater than ever. This essay has sought to identify some of the salient issues binding the histories and peoples of the two countries together throughout history, as well as to expose some of the most important discontinuities and differences distinguishing their historic encounters with race, so that US students might arrive in Cuba equipped with a foundation for forging lasting ties. Hopefully, this bibliographic essay will serve as a guide for university libraries to build collections of books that will aid their institutions in forming these important ambassadorial student relationships.