Students trace Cuba’s history from the country’s precolonial past to its most recent economic, social, and political changes. Students re-create the discussions Cubans on the island are having about their country’s future.
- Explore the changing relationship between the United States and Cuba.
- Interpret political cartoons on the restoration of diplomatic relations.
- Identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express political opinions.
- Monitor the news media coverage of U.S.-Cuba relations over time.
In the Classroom
Ask students if they have heard about Cuba in the news. What have they heard? Tell students that they are going to learn more about the U.S. relationship with Cuba. Watch the video “Why should high school students learn about Cuba?” with the class and then distribute “Background on U.S.-Cuba Relations.” Give students 5-10 minutes to read. Review the reading and video with the class. Clarify any difficult vocabulary or concepts. (For example, be sure students understand what an “embargo” is.) Ask students to identify information from the video and reading that they believe is important. What information is new to them?
2. Analyzing Cartoons
Divide the class into groups of three or four. Distribute “Political Cartoons” to each student. Review the introduction with your class, emphasizing the techniques cartoonists use to convey an opinion on political issues. Review the cartoon on page 2 and answer the questions as a class to model the assignment. What are the techniques being used? What is the message of the cartoon? How is this cartoon related to what the class knows about the U.S.-Cuba relationship?
Assign the remaining cartoons to students, two per group. Have the students discuss the cartoons and answer the questions provided. Inform students that they will be presenting their work to the class.
3. Drawing Connections
Have each group present their political cartoons to the class. If you have multiple groups analyzing the same cartoons, you may wish to have them present together or on different questions from the activity. You may also wish to project the relevant cartoons, using the available PowerPoint.
As a class, discuss how cartoonists provide perspective on political issues. Were students able to identify the message of each cartoon? If so, what were the cartoonists trying to express? What techniques are used in the cartoons that students analyzed? Which techniques did students think were most effective in getting the message across? Were certain techniques easier to identify than others? Why? How do these cartoons relate to U.S. policy regarding Cuba? Do students think that the cartoons they analyzed give favorable or unfavorable views of U.S.-Cuba relations? If students were making their own cartoons on the relationship between the United States and Cuba, what opinions would they want to express?
4. Monitoring the Situation in the News
Distribute “Monitoring the Situation.” Tell students that over the course of the next month, they will be following Cuba in the news and taking note of how the situation evolves. As a starting point refer students to the list of news sources below. Encourage students to seek out other sources. Students should consult at least two or three news sources and write a short update about the situation every week on Part I of the handout. At the end of the month, students should answer the questions listed in Part II.
After students have completed the activity, bring the class together to debrief. How has the relationship between the United States and Cuba evolved? What effect has it had on the situation in Cuba? In the United States? How are different members of these societies (e.g. Cuban-Americans, political dissidents in Cuba, human rights activists, etc.) responding to the changing relationship?
News Sources for Monitoring:
The Economist page on Cuba
[Note: The Economist has a limit on how many articles can be read without a subscription. Each user may read three articles per week.]
Have students create their own political cartoons that reflect their opinion on the U.S. relationship with Cuba.
Articles and Online Resources
The Washington Post—Where U.S.-Cuba relations stand and what may change
The Wall Street Journal—So How’s That Cuba Deal Going?
The New Yorker—Slow Change in Cuba
The New York Times—How America’s Relationship With Cuba Will Change
The White House—Text of Statement by the President on Cuba Policy Changes
The Washington Post—Speech by Cuban President Raul Castro on re-establishing U.S.-Cuba relations
Watson Institute Webcast—Obama’s Cuba Policy: The Top Secret History Behind the Historic Breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban Relations
LeoGrande, William M. and Peter Kornbluh. Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations Between Washington and Havana (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014). 544 pages.
Sweig, Julia E. Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). 336 pages.
Photo credit: Day Donaldson via Flickr.