By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, September 7 – Two retired New Jersey teachers want to spend their 50th wedding anniversary in the same place they honeymooned during Christmas break in 1958. They have the money to travel so what’s stopping them?
Cold War politics, it’s that simple.
Back on December 28, 1958, Dottie and Andy Book went to Havana with four of Andy’s friends, two days after their marriage and only three days before Fidel Castro and his rebel army swept into power as the dictator Fulgenicio Batista fled the country.
Havana Times asked the Books by e-mail what would make them go to Cuba in the middle of a conflict that was coming to a head?
The Books explained that at first they had planned to spend their honeymoon in Florida, but upon arriving they ran into four of Andy’s WW2 GI buddies who were also vacationing.
“The guys said there was a special price to Havana,” said Andy, who spoke some Spanish from living on the Mexican border. He told HT that “Dorothy had never been out of the country.”
So the group decided to go. “We were the only ones on the plane,” Dottie told the Newsobserver.com. “There was a man standing with a machine gun in the front,” she added.
As Fidel Castro prepared to roll into Santiago de Cuba 850 kilometers east of Havana after leading a long and ultimately successful revolution against the US-backed dictator, the Books spent their New Years Eve festivities at the jam-packed Tropicana casino and night club in the capital.
Over the following days Andy said his friends -who are now all deceased- “drank beer and stayed away from us most of the time.” After all, the Books were on their honeymoon.
The couple flew back home on January 5 to get ready for the new school year. Three days later Fidel Castro arrived in the Cuban capital heading up the victory caravan that had traveled from province to province.
Now, nearly fifty years later, the Books thought it would be a great idea to return to their honeymoon site, where they witnessed history in the making.
However, ordinary US citizens are banned by their government from traveling to Cuba, a leftover of the Cold War that engulfed the two nations starting in the early 1960s when Washington instituted an economic blockade against the neighboring island nation.
Special permission to go to Cuba must be sought from the US Treasury Department but the Books decided to give it a go.
In their letter they said their request “is about romance” and “not about politics.”
The Obama administration’s Treasury Department denied their request.