1963 August 26

First Unauthorized Traveler to Cuba Returns, Faces Federal Charges


Barry Hoffman of Brookline, Massachusetts, was the first of a group of 58 Americans who traveled to Cuba in violation of a U.S. travel ban, to return to the U.S. Hoffman and the others in the group faced criminal charges, with possible penalties of a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Misuse of a passport, meanwhile, carried a possible $2,000 fine and two years in prison. The group had left for Cuba at the invitation of President Fidel Castro on June 28. President John F. Kennedy, on August 1, 1963, declared that some members of the group were “definitely Communists.”

The decades-long ban on unrestricted travel to Cuba infringed on the basic right of Americans to freely travel around the world and form their own opinions on countries, including those that the U.S. government do not like.

On December 17, 2014, after decades of hostility between the two countries, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced that they would begin the process of normalizing relations between the two countries.

Learn more about the history of U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba: https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL31139.pdf

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