NJ Cubans Confused over New Travel Regulations

Under new measures, Americans will be allowed to travel to Cuba given that the purpose of the trip falls under one of 12 designated categories. (Photo by Cristina Loboguerrero via El Diario)

Under new measures, Americans will be allowed to travel to Cuba given that the purpose of the trip falls under one of 12 designated categories. (Photo by Cristina Loboguerrero via El Diario)

Cubans living in Union City, New Jersey, had mixed feelings of joy and confusion when they heard about the changes, announced the Obama Administration on June 15, that will allow travel to Cuba.

“Of course I think it’s great,” said Abilio Toledo, 80. Still, he and many other fellow Cubans have questions about the procedures they will need to follow from now on.

Toledo, born in Santa Clara, has lived in Hudson County since 1980. Last year, he was able to go to Cuba to visit his three sisters, who are in their 70s. “Right now, I am not sure what I need to do in order to travel,” said Toledo, who plans to visit his homeland again at the end of this month.

Under the new measures, U.S. nationals will be allowed to travel to Cuba under 12 categories without applying for a special license issued by the government.

Robert Guild, vice president of Marazul, one of the largest travel agencies arranging trips to Cuba, said that he has received several phone calls from customers saying they were confused by the new rules, which do not allow for tourism if they do not qualify under one of the categories.

“A person who wants to travel to Cuba tomorrow cannot do it if they don’t meet the requirements. Still, many of the categories have been broadened, such as the one covering students, which now allows high schools to visit,” said Guild. Marazul’s North Bergen office sells around 1,200 tickets to the island per year.

Lynda Dieguez, manager at the Caribe Express agency in Guttenberg, New Jersey agrees that there is uncertainty about the new paperwork, but points out the positive changes. “It used to be that you had to apply for a license at the OFAC (Office for Foreign Assets Control) where you needed to detail how long you planned to stay and the reason for your trip, which are now omitted.”

Both Dieguez and Guild acknowledged that the new regulations will increase their business.

Migdalia Castañeda, a 22-year-old who was born in Union City to Varadero-born parents, wants to travel to Cuba to learn about her culture. “I really want to be able to visit my family and learn about my roots.”

What brought her more joy, however, was finding out that direct flights will be available between JFK and Havana beginning on March 17. “That will save time,” said Castañeda, explaining that her relatives always had to make a stop in Miami. This would lengthen their trip to around 10 hours, when they would finally make it to their destination.

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