Detrás del Bloqueo (Behind the Embargo) is a production of the School of Journalism at Northeastern University. Twelve students under the direction of Professor Carlene Hempel reported these stories in the spring of 2019 from Boston and Cuba. Their work proves that in spite of a long-standing embargo, the people of Cuba had something to say, and we listened.

Cuba in focus

Pride and perseverance on the island

  • Hurricane ready: What we can learn from Cuba’s storm resilience
    In the quiet hour of 4 a.m., University of Havana meteorology professor Armando Caymares was working alone at his desk when he was jolted by a phone call. A familiar voice scratched through the hazy connection. It was Gladys Rubio, a Cuban-American tropical storm analyst at the National Hurricane Center in Miami: Hurricane Michael was tracking toward Cuba, she verified. It’s time to get ready….
  • Cuban doctors go back to their roots for plant-based remedies
    Just off of Avenida 23, one of Havana’s busiest streets, lies a small shop, its storefront minimally decorated like most others in communist Cuba. The interior is organized like a small jewelry store, with a glass countertop display case separating patrons from a woman in a lab coat, darting in and out from the back room….
  • The Afro of Cuban music
    African influences are often lost when listening to Latin music. Cuban rhythms would be empty of the clave and the drums without the creativity, imagination and strength of the Yorùbá people who were forced to leave their homes as slaves. Today, those sounds still beat as the heart of the island….
  • 60 years later, Cuban children remember when they were forced to leave
    They remember being ushered away from their parents with dozens of other children. They remember the room of glass that made a few feet feel like miles. They remember waving goodbye to their parents, unsure of the next time they would meet….
  • Cuban-Americans send millions to vulnerable islanders in need
    The days of riding bicycles through Cuban neighborhoods abruptly ended for Consuelo Isaacson when her family had to leave their home in the midst of the Cuban Revolution in 1960. …
  • Protecting Cuban roots, organically
    At Organoponico Vivero Alamar farm just outside of Havana, where rows of fruits and vegetables soak up the early spring sun on a recent Wednesday, a simple red-stemmed mint plant is under the 24-hour surveillance of a security guard and watchdog….
  • No joke: In Cuba, comedy is a tool for survival
    On the unassuming calle Galiano in Centro Havana, hundreds of people are impatiently waiting before the doors of the Teatro América. from all corners of Havana….
  • How the sounds of Cuba’s reefs could save the world’s corals
    As climate change worsens, the world’s coral reefs continue to fail at staggering rates. But in Cuba, years of strict environmental regulations have given these ecosystems a fighting chance….
  • Even after most have left, an effort to keep Chinatown alive
    Shugui Luo sits underneath the moderate spring sun, scanning passersby from the porch of Tien Tan, the local Chinese restaurant he works for, located on the vibrant Cuchillo street in the heart of the city’s Chinatown. One of only an estimated 70 ethnically Chinese immigrants still living within what used to be the largest Chinatown in Latin America, Luo, 50, lives in Havana with a Cuban wife and a 12-year-old son….
  • Boston’s own little (tiny) Havana
    Phil Chiampa and his wife Toni Lyn have been coming to El Oriental de Cuba for decades, but they worried they may have lost “the best Cuban food that we’ve ever had” when an arsonist set fire to the restaurant in 2005. …
  • Hip hop artists find a new beat in Cuba
    Hip hop music was born in the United States but Cubans have always loved a good beat. Now young artists are trying to create their own following, which isn’t always easy in a country known for salsa, rhumba and jazz….
  • Scientists navigate Cuban-US strife through collaborative research
    Laura Weber looks fondly at a gallon-sized tank filled with test tubes and adorned with weathered security clearance forms. This tank, called a dry shipper, had been charged up with liquid nitrogen to act as a special cooler that would keep its contents cold during the long journey from the United States to Cuba and back again….
  • Evangelicals surge in Communist Cuba
    John Wesley rides his horse through the Cuban countryside, beneath tall palm trees and mountains so green they look purple. He holds the reins in one hand and his Bible in the other….
  • Young Cuban-Americans watch as dramatic change takes hold of the island
    As they prepared for bed, “Breaking News” flashed across the TV: “Fidel Castro has died at 90.” Isabella Prio, a second-generation Cuban-American, was at her Miami home during Thanksgiving break from her junior year at Boston College when then-president of Cuba Raul Castro announced his brother’s death…