Academic Spotlight: Carthage student travels to Cuba to study embargo
By Cathy Janek For Sun-Times Media March 18, 2014 11:54AM
Ryan Lindsay (far right) and other Carthage College students chat with students at the Universidad Central "Marta Abreu" of Las Villas in Santa Clara, Cuba, during a January study tour. | Courtesy of Carthage College
Ryan Lindsay, of Oswego, was among a group of students from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., who traveled to Cuba in January.
“I was interested in studying the effects of the U.S. embargo on the Cuban people and their economy,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay participated in the trip as part of the Carthage course Life in Politics: Surviving Socialism and the U.S. Embargo in Cuba.
This is Lindsay’s second trip abroad with Carthage College. In 2011, he visited Japan as part of the college’s January term, a monthlong period of study that can include studying abroad, on-campus coursework or internships.
The trip marked the first Carthage excursion to Cuba since the U.S. loosened regulations in 2011, which permits groups to travel there for academic purposes. However, until just a few weeks before the departure date, it was unclear whether the group would obtain visas to go on the trip.
The group was led by two Carthage College professors: political science professor Jeffrey Roberg and psychology/neuroscience professor Penny Seymoure.
Roberg, who has visited Cuba on three separate occasions, said visitors there must obtain a visa through a specified U.S. bank. Based on the difficulties related to the embargo and because Cuba is on the U.S. terrorist watch list, it is very difficult logistically.
Upon arrival, the stark contrast between life in the United States and life in Cuba was evident to Lindsay.
“The only people that have cars in Cuba are extremely wealthy individuals who receive income from families living in the U.S. or government officials,” he said.
“We drove on roads that were built during Batista’s regime and haven’t been maintained since,” Lindsay added.
The group met with Hugo Pons, an economic adviser to Cuban President Raul Castro. From a U.S. economic perspective, the contrast in Cuban economic policies was interesting to see firsthand, Lindsay said.
“The country is looking to expand and create a larger private sector while maintaining their socialistic ideals,” Lindsay said. “It will be interesting to see what will change in Cuba over the next five years in terms of the political paradigm.”
He also questioned if the U.S. embargo with Cuba will be lifted in the future.
The Carthage College group was able to bring along textbooks, which were donated to a university.
“With the Cuban socialist regime, the government limits literature, access to communication and education resources,” Lindsay said.
Cubans, he said, don’t have the freedom to buy books on the Internet from overseas.
At the university, Carthage students spent time with their Cuban counterparts.
“We cut our students loose, and they cut their students loose,” Roberg said. “Our students found that students in Cuba are a lot like students in the United States. They have the same hopes, dreams, desires, wishes and interests.”
The students also visited Playa Giron (the Bay of Pigs) and a memorial to revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The group also joined in the city of Trinidad’s 500th anniversary celebration.
Lindsay graduated from Oswego East High School in 2010 and is a senior at Carthage College majoring in finance and economics. He hopes to begin a career in analytics after graduation.