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The Test of Time

Closeup of an Oldsmobile symbol on the back of an antique car with missing letters

"Oldsmobile"

Buffeted by the winds of a changing global political order, externally imposed trade restrictions, and natural disasters, Cuba's landscape provides a visual testament to its people's unique struggles and resilience.

Quality of life in socialist Cuba took a devastating hit during the so-called Special Period, when the collapse of European communism (and, consequently, of its subsidized trade with Cuba) wreaked havoc on the island's ability to import resources for its increasingly obsolete sugar industry and to export agriculture at globally competitive prices. In 2002, the island was forced to close half of its sugar mills.

During the same period, housing, public transportation, and other essential sectors of Cuba's infrastructure deteriorated dramatically.  Forced by necessity to undertake a dramatic self-evaluation, Cuba modified its policies in 1990s—for example, promoting tourism and legalizing the dollar—in light of a new world order.

Such decisions allowed the nation to survive the immediate crisis of the Special Period, but the Cuba of the new millennium continues to make decisions about how it will respond before the dual challenges of providing for its people and upholding its socialist ideals.