When money trumps mindfulness

This spring a delegation from the Williams College of Business had the opportunity to tour Cuba, “immersing themselves in the complex, social, political and economic reality that is Cuba today,” according to an article published in April in Xavier Magazine. The article “Hola Cuba” describes the history of “the outcast and ostracized country” to contextualize and explain the purpose of the trip for the business students.
The article is deeply troubling at best, however, for reasons pertaining to the attitude expressed about U.S.-Cuban relations as well as the purpose of the trip itself. In short, the trip to Cuba was a morally haphazard venture that does not reflect core tenets of Xavier’s mission.
For starters, the history that “Hola Cuba” offers is remarkably one-sided. The article only focuses on Americans in Cuba, not the Cuba that Cubans knew either before or after the revolution. The historical facts included only involve Americans, whether that is the tales of rowdy Americans flocking to Havana in the early 20th century or the loosening of trade restrictions for Americans in Cuba in the beginning of the 21st century.
Furthermore, the article fails to contest an intensely imperialistic attitude that runs rampant in the history of U.S.-Cuban relations. “Fidel Castro took over, Cuba went communist and relations — both diplomatic and economic — ground to a halt,” the article states. This is true: diplomatic and economic relations ground to a halt. However, it is well-documented that the impetus to end relations came from the U.S., not Castro’s government.
After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Castro’s government decided that it was time to put an end to profits made at the expense of the Cuban people and Cuban resources, which included the expropriation of oil refineries from uncooperative U.S. oil companies. The Eisenhower Administration responded with an economic embargo months later, and cut all diplomatic relations shortly thereafter in Jan. 1961.
“The efforts to control the country sank into the Bay of Pigs,” the article states in another place. This statement is also true. U.S. attempts to overtly control Cuba ended with this rather conspicuous attempt at invasion. The problem, however, is that the U.S. government was attempting to control Cuba at all, not that the U.S. lost options in its regional political strategy.
The article attempts to maintain neutrality in the issue of U.S. economic influence and power in Latin America. However, it can be strongly argued that remaining “neutral” in this issue is not a stance of neutrality at all, but rather allowing the victors to unabashedly write the history. The facts may be correct, but objective facts do not lead to an objective rhetorical stance.
Some problems I find with the historical background provided to contextualize this delegation seem to form part of the rationale for sending Xavier students to Cuba, which is also troublesome.
Students from the Williams College of Business “were put in a position to better understand what could very well be one of this country’s biggest new business markets.” That is absolutely true in the same way that the facts provided in the brief history of Cuba are true. This real business advantage fails to take into account all the other important factors for judging the value of this trip and whether the students are truly in a better position overall.
What factors are being ignored?
From the article alone, it does not seem that there was deliberation over whether this trip to Cuba might conflict with the university’s mission, or more specifically, the gifts of Ignation heritage that can serve as guides to help us understand what it means to form students as an institution founded in the Jesuit tradition.
The phrase “for and with others” is often used to describe what solidarity means. The delegation to Cuba did not even claim to examine what solidarity with the Cuban people might look like. I strongly doubt that taking advantage of a new business market constitutes solidarity. Nor does it express care for the whole person or really care for the person at all.
Learning about this “new market” expresses interest in this country’s — the United States’ — economic benefit. It does not regard the well-being of Cubans or how this might affect their lives.
Between a one-sided history and a one-sided way to think about interacting with a different culture and a “new market,” we don’t get much in the way of development of the university mission or the moral and spiritual development of students in the business college, which should be one of the principal objectives of a Xavier business education.
All we get is some high-quality photographs, a Cuba at risk for higher income inequality and some neat stories about the most taboo destination for American citizens.
Taylor Fulkerson is a senior philosophy major from Lanesville, In.