NYSBA in Cuba: Making History in More Ways Than One

The State Bar News March/April 2015

Eileen D. Millett, Counsel in the Litigation and Health Care and Life Sciences practices, in the firm's New York office, authored an article in the New York State Bar Association’s The State Bar News, titled “NYSBA in Cuba: Making History in More Ways Than One.”

Following is an excerpt:

Editor's Note: On November 30–December 6, 2014, a group of State Bar members and companions participated in a trip to Cuba organized by Past President A. Thomas Levin and Cuba Cultural Travel (CCT). ...

At long last, on Dec. 1, 2014, I arrived in Havana, Cuba, the country of my mother’s birth. A country she’d left long ago, to never return. I wanted desperately to see what had made her say, repeatedly, "tengo un pais y una bandera" (I have a country and a flag).

Would it really be the "best climate" in the world? Could the bread really be like no other I’d ever experienced? Was the café con leche like the one my mother made with the "sock?"

My anticipation was that of a seasoned traveler with tempered expectations. After all, I knew about the embargo. Nonetheless, I hoped for surprises.

La Habana (Spanish for Havana) gives off an aura of power and vibrancy rather than sheer beauty. The Capital arose before me with the bones of a majestic and magnificent city, a thriving metropolis, large and expansive, once spectacular, but sadly in decline, laid low by an embargo.

Why hadn’t I known that in 1592, King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City, and that later on, the city would be officially designated by the Spanish crown as "Key to the New World and Rampart of the West Indies?"

La Habana is like no version of any "banana republic." It was like seeing a stunningly elegant and beautiful woman who retains her beauty, but has declined. Cuba’s capital is molded much in the cast of a European capital city in every regard, wide boulevards, promenades, esplanades, spectacular architecture and incredible attention to detail. I felt the need to drink it in. Between required lectures and events, it was going to be difficult to get enough of this city, but I was determined to give it my all.