It's rare for politicians from these two countries to stray from the narratives of suspicion and intransigence that have prevented productive collaboration for over half a century. Yet that's just what has happened in the last few weeks.
Havana still rejects the principle of far-reaching political change as a precondition for scrapping the embargo. There's no reason to expect a change of heart, particularly because other major economic powers' willingness to trade with and invest in Cuba has made the American boycott less painful.
While the 'misconduct' of Secret Service agents with prostitutes in Colombia is a significant, if titillating scandal, most media reports have missed the tectonic political shift that surfaced at the recent Summit of the Americas meeting.
With President Obama attending the 2012 Summit of the Americas, we have to ask this: Who benefits from his decision to continue a Bush-era policy of coaxing Cuban doctors to leave their medical missions and defect to the United States?
Latin America presents enormous opportunities for the U.S. in terms of economic and political cooperation, but we continue to squander these opportunities as we squabble among ourselves over issues like immigration and drug policies.
The pope's visit to Mexico and Cuba beginning Friday will kick off a period of intensive focus on Latin America. As the spotlight shines on the region, it will illuminate both the dramatic progress that has been made, as well as the progress that remains to be made.