Reflecting on the past three days in Denver, a personal highlight was hearing from Helmo Hernandez, president of the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba. As a Cuban-American, I was particularly interested to hear about the state of—and prospects for—philanthropy in Cuba. Toward the end of his remarks, Hernandez spoke of the need to explore “alternative legal spaces” for the promotion of a dialogue that can move beyond the historic avenues for bilateral relations between Cuba and the United States and bring about a change in the current state of affairs on the island.
I agree with Hernandez that it is through the pursuit of alternative spaces that those who have a sincere desire to see a change, not only in approach but in results, can engage in a productive conversation about the future of Cuba, and the roles of the United States and the Cuban diaspora in that future.
If, as Hernandez indicated, philanthropy presents such an alternative space for this type of engagement, then I think it is an opportunity that our sector should explore with vigor. In doing so, the philanthropic sector in this country can tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience gained in the pursuit of social justice in the U.S. to work in collaboration with the philanthropic sector in Cuba. This collaboration could assist Cuban philanthropy in the development and strengthening of this alternative space and the pursuit of social justice for the island’s 11 million residents. Engagement by U.S. foundations in this process could mark a historic turning point for civil society inside Cuba and for the role of philanthropy in promoting this change.
Javier Soto is the president of Dade Community Foundation.