Sitting in the José Martí International Airport, I faced a significant moral and legal dilemma.
After a week in Havana, customs had been cleared and it was time to catch the flight back to Miami. We went there legally in May as part of U.S. and Cuban government sanctioned People-to-People exchanges.
As we waited to leave Cuba, the airport's duty-free shops were open. Time and again in the three-hour wait, I walked into the shop.
All the good stuff was there, specifically rum and Cuban cigars. And not just any cigars, but Cohibas. Oh, how I wanted a fistful of those Cohibas to take back to the states.
But, the law didn't allow for that.
Because of the U.S. embargo of Cuba, it is illegal to bring the rum and cigars back into the states. I could bring art and all sorts of other items, but I could not bring the good stuff -- the really good stuff.
I am not a cigar smoker, but while we were in Cuba, I would sit on the veranda of Hotel Nacional with a spectacular view of Havana Harbor and smoke a hand-rolled Cohiba.
I enjoyed that guilty pleasure several nights during our stay in Havana. Some nights I would sip aged rum; other nights I would smoke the cigar while drinking a Bucanero, a pretty good Cuban beer.
But the cigar was always the highlight of a day in the forbidden land.
Over the years, I have visited Key West, Fla., several times. Almost always, I would stand at the southernmost point of the United States and look south. The buoy that marks the spot proclaims it is 90 miles to Cuba.
Until May, that 90 miles just as well have been 90,000 miles.
A few years ago, the two governments eased travel restrictions, allowing U.S. citizens to go to Cuba on visas rather than trying to get into the communist country through a back door.
Last week, President Barack Obama announced he was moving to normalize relations with Cuba.
I am not qualified to talk about the politics of it. I don't fully understand it and freely admit that.
But I do know something about the Cuban people I met in Havana. They are a lot like us, except they are quite crafty in their ability to keep old cars running and aging infrastructure in place.
I met teenagers at a ballet school. They could have been my daughters. When they finished performing, they went straight to their bookbags and took out their phones.
I had the same conversations with bartenders in Cuba that I have with bartenders in the states. We talked baseball and sports. They talk about the Industriales, the best team in Cuba, with the same reverence baseball fans here talk about the Yankees.
The artists in Cuba paint with passion that is undeniable. They love talking about their art with visitors. And they love to sell it.
Our Cuban guide was a woman named Nacy. She had an iPhone, dressed like any 20-something woman would in the U.S. The only difference? She can't visit the states, though she said she would love to.
The college professors and college students we met at the University of Havana were bright and engaged. They had a lot of questions for their visitors from the states. They were just as curious about us as we were about them.
Many Cubans desire the things we desire -- electronics being one of them. At baggage claim when we arrived in Havana, there were more new flat-screen televisions in boxes than there were bags. There were more computers than there were bags.
I know that some people are angry with the president's move to open up relations between the U.S. and Cuba. I get it.
A lot of Cubans who fled the country after the coup in which Fidel Castro took charge left property, their assets and their families only to have to start over in the state. My heart breaks for them and I have seen what they left behind.
On our tour, that was one of the times I saw the Cuban propaganda machine working. Our Cuban tour guide pointed out a row homes that obviously were once nice, but not any more. She said those were people who left for the U.S. and never came back to maintain their property.
I just laughed out loud.
At one restaurant, we were served on antique China plates. They could have belonged to my grandmother or yours. I wished those plates could tell their story.
What President Obama has done might not be perfect, but it's a starting point to possibly lift the U.S. embargo and allow trade between the countries.
The only way it is going to change is for our way of life and our people to freely and openly engage with Cubans -- on their soil and ours.
Which brings me back to that moral dilemma in the José Martí International Airport.
Oh, how I wanted to take a few Cohiba cigars home. But the law did not allow for that. I thought about stuffing a box in my bookbag and praying for the best clearing customs in Miami.
I decided it wasn't worth the risk.
Now, after President Obama's actions, I could bring that box of Cohibas home. And people here could inhale that sweet smell of an island that more and more of us will be able to visit in the coming years.
That's a good thing. For their people -- and ours.
Chuck Williams, senior reporter, firstname.lastname@example.org.