Miami Sound Machine singer Gloria Estefan, whose family endured painful experiences in Cuba, said that she will never return to the island nation as long as the Castro regime remains in power.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News Latino this week, the singer said, “For me, it’s tough to go to Cuba and be able to do things that the Cubans can’t do – go to restaurants they’re not allowed in, go to beaches that they can’t use, watch them going through such lengths just to try to feed their family, seeing the human rights abuses that still are there.”
Even so, she encourages Americans who consider visiting the country to do so.
“I think that it’s important, people-to-people travel,” Estefan said, adding that it would be fruitful to “have the Cuban people who have been stuck in a time warp for 57 years, like frozen [in time] … learn about the world through other travelers.”
She added, “The more focus [on Cuba and Cubans] and the more things we see, and that the more they’re able to share with people, it’s only going to help.”
“For me, it’s a little harder,” the 59-year-old singer said. “I’m persona non grata there. They really don’t like the fact that I’ve been very vocal against that government.”
Estefan, who left her birth country when she was just a toddler, has spoken out against human rights violations and the imprisonment of anti-government critics in Cuba.
“I don’t think any government should be in power for 57 years,” Estefan said, “even if they were the best government ever.”
Her father, who was part of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, was captured and spent two years in jail in Cuba. (Upon coming to the U.S., he joined the U.S. Army, serving two years in Vietnam.)
She said cannot fathom enjoying Cuba when she knows the daily hardship and obstacles that Cubans on the island face even today.
Since the easing of restrictions on trade and travel by the Obama administration more Americans have been traveling there, and commercial airlines and cruise companies now are offering trips to the island, driving down fares.
Many American business owners also have traveled there, looking for opportunities once the trade embargo is lifted.
In March, President Barack Obama went to Cuba, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit since Calvin Coolidge in 1928, as have many members of Congress.
Critics of restoring relations say that Obama didn't get any the regime of President Raúl Castro to make any concession to implement democratic reforms, and instead legitimized a tyrant.
In recent years, some of Cuba’s best known dissidents have been allowed to travel off the island and return, even after giving high-profile speeches against the Castro regime during their travel.
But there still are political prisoners, and dissent is swiftly suppressed.
“Yes, things have change on this side – over there not much has changed,” Estefan said. “Hopefully it will, little by little. But they’re still having a tough time.”