President Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928, and only the second in history. Much has changed since Calvin Coolidge arrived at the island nation via battleship — and not just modes of transportation. The visit, which began Sunday evening local time, is the latest step in the efforts between Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro to restore a relationship severed in 1959 following brother Fidel Castro's revolution. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Patrick Leahy, first lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha are accompanying the president on his tour. According to the New York Times, his itinerary begins in Old Havana. There, he'll meet with the city's archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, who is credited with facilitating this whole process of warming relations.
On Monday, Obama will meet with Raul Castro, speak to the media, participate in a conference with American business leaders, and then attend a state dinner at the Revolutionary Palace. Tuesday includes a speech at Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso and an exhibition baseball game between Cuba's national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. That day, the president is also scheduled to meet with Cuban dissidents, one of the White House's prerequisites of the visit, the Associated Press reported.
The change in the relationship between the two countries has been slow, but steady, since Obama first announced his intentions in December 2014. Cuba has begun to allow its citizens to work in the private sector and has eased restrictions on cell phone and internet use. Respective embassies reopened in July 2015. Commercial air travel has been allowed and Airbnb has permission to operate in Cuba, though the U.S. embargo against the country is still in place.