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Barack Obama’s historic opening to Cuba could build momentum leading to permanent change. The president has called for restoring full diplomatic relations, expanding trade and liberalizing travel rules. The infamous embargo remains in place, pending possible congressional action.

Long before the announcement, however, progressive American nonprofits had been trying to expand cultural and economic ties with Cuba. Their experiences shine some light on what others can expect interacting with the new Cuba.

Chef and restaurateur Narsai David was sent to Cuba by the Green Cities Fund, an Oakland nonprofit helping to establish a culinary academy in Havana.

Dressed in a flowery shirt and sporting a ’50s era beatnik goatee, he stood in a field next to farmworkers in dusty jeans and dirt-soiled boots.

David was visiting Havana as part of a cultural exchange to learn about Cuba’s world-class experiment in organic farming.

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