Cuban farmer working the field

When Bill Patterson happened across a book about Cuba over a decade ago, he had no idea it would change his worldview forever. The book’s author happened to share his last name, a fellow with one ‘t’ instead of two, he said, and he picked up and started reading.

From this initial chance encounter, Bill’s interest in Cuba grew, and he started absorbing whatever he could about the tiny Caribbean nation, from books to magazines articles. He was struck by the contrast between propaganda and reality, shocked by statistics about the pre-revolution lives of Cuba’s citizens: 3 million people without any electricity, 39% illiteracy, 50% unemployment, 80% of the good property owned or controlled by US interests. He read more about the embargo and the long term destabilization efforts of the U.S. against the Castro government.

After finding out the truth about Cuba, the conclusions were inescapable.

“If you are concerned about Cuba, you know that our country is pretty shameful… I read a great deal about Cuba, and our conduct is really beneath our stature,” Bill said.

Reading is one thing. But seeing is another. And Bill knew that the only way to get the real scoop on Cuba would be to go there.

In a country with a decades long travel ban, this was easier said than done. He eventually settled on a Global Exchange Reality Tour as the best way to make this happen. In the spring of 1999, he started making arrangements to travel somewhere few Americans ever get to see. And in June of 1999, he found himself stepping off of an airplane in Cuba.

While there, he was able to see for himself exactly what you won’t see much in the U.S.: unbiased, unfiltered information about Cuba’s people, about their society, about how they live. The experience was a game changer for Bill.

He liked it so much that he did it again the next year.

Since he first traveled with Global Exchange, Bill’s become a solid supporter, giving every month as a member of Global Exchange Monthly Supporters (GEMS) program. Like us, Bill sees the great value in building people-to-people ties, and he feels pretty confident that he’s putting his money in the right place.

“You do things so well, and you’re so disciplined, it’s quite easy to be comfortable.”

Support from our members like Bill makes our work possible. We sure are glad he happened across that book.