Happy Anniversary, Bey and Jay! How did you celebrate? Oh, you went on a trip? Cool, where to?
Cuba! How ni– wait, Cuba? I thought Americans weren’t allowed to travel to Cuba? Oh, they’re not, but you got special clearance from the treasury department because you are the Queen and Prince Philip of Pop? Of course you did. Well, good for you, I guess. But here is why everyone is kind of pissed:
See, the thing is, the United States has banned Americans from going to Cuba for strictly tourist reasons. You can go for school, or for some types of work, or with a cultural visa, but if you’re going to just hang out and smoke cigars and eat delicious food, you’re not really allowed. This is because of the human rights atrocities committed by the Cuban government – the US is trying to avoid supporting the Cuban economy through an embargo that restricts tourism, and hopefully pressure the Cuban government into the 21st Century. The criticism over the power couple’s trip is that they failed to recognize or acknowledge the political and socio-economic landscape of Cuba, and placed a higher value on their own pleasure than on an entire country’s suffering.
“There are women getting beaten on a daily basis, women who are being jailed for no reason … people are fighting for their freedom,” Mauricio Claver-Carone, the Executive Director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C. told TMZ. “Beyonce and Jay-Z failed to educate themselves on Cuba’s human rights violations before making the trip. It’s extremely insensitive.”
That said, as you can probably imagine, Americans have continued to find ways to visit Cuba – even Americans much less wealthy than Beyonce and Jay-Z. Its actually sort of a badge of honor these days for the experienced traveler to hop a flight in Canada and fly in to Cuba unnoticed. It is, after all, a beautiful destination, rich in culture and history, like many other coveted vacation spots. Some might even say that a Beyonce/Jay-Z sponsored anniversary trip might actually help the Cuban economy, as they are bringing not only themselves, but their entire entourage, and spending lots of dough. But it is where that dough ends up that is the real problem.
Regardless of the political issues at hand, Beyonce in particular has had a somewhat arrogant year. I’m not really sure what is going on with her, but I for one don’t like the attitude. She went from promoting obesity awareness with Michelle Obama to shilling obesity causing Pepsi. I’m still not 100% sure what it means, but she yelled at all the bitches, telling them to bow down. She’ll put her name on the women’s non-profit, Chime for Change, and then take a pleasure trip to Cuba, where the average woman only makes $16.70/month.
I guess the issue here is that Beyonce and Jay-Z should have known better, and been smarter about who they gave their money to. People might be afraid that their visit will inspire others to follow suit, and soon Cuba will be another tropical hot spot, like Jamaica, The Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. But the thing is, despite the United States’ history with Cuba, Cuba itself is not that different than these other places. It is a beautiful vacation spot for the wealthy, and an impoverished and dangerous place for the locals. It is a place where many American’s go to get away from work, and fail to realize all of the people working for unfair wages or in unsafe conditions all around them. It is a place where we go to stay at a resort, because we don’t want to have to see or deal with the sadness lurking on every dark street corner. Rich people have always lived this way – with one eye closed to the suffering of others. It’s how they get through, and something they think they have earned. None of us are guilt free when it comes to exerting our American privilege on others – some just happen to do it more often and with a lot more cameras around.