Under the heading "A symbol of the slave trade joins US and Cuba," the news is out this morning: the schooner Amistad is on its way. The organizers have said that it will first dock in the province of Matanzas, a city known as the Athens of Cuba because of its Doric and Ionic columns and the site of the new UNESCO-affiliated slavery museum. On the morning of March 22, when the Amistad is set to arrive in the bay of Matanzas, it will be fulfilling a two century old return home; indeed, it was there, on those docks, that the original schooner was built and from where it first set sail.
The Amistad left Cuban shores in 1839 full of captive African slaves, all of whom revolted, taking over the ship until the vessel was finally seized off the shores of Long Island. All of this is beautifully and, as always, artistically and tastefully recounted in the 1997 Steven Spielberg film Amistad .
Maritime law obliges vessels to carry at least two flags: one from the country from where it leaves port and the other from the country from where it is headed. This vessel will thus be sailing the Caribbean waving both the Cuban flag and the flag of the United States of America. What a lovely sight that will be.
For anyone who doubts the ties between Cuba and the US, this is yet another page in the many chapters of the long relationship that unites these two nations. The replica of a XIX century slave vessel baptized "Amistad" -- back again honoring the end of one of the most horrendous and, ironically, enriching chapters of the history of this hemisphere -- will be flying the flags of the hemispheres oldest foes whose history and mutual ties reach back in time only to, paradoxically, spell out friendship.