"It [trade with Cuba] means a lot of jobs for the area, for farmers, ranchers, and cattle people," Mr. Ortiz says. "This opened up a new avenue for the farmers, and they can now stay in the game."
According to the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba reached $380 million in 2004, the highest level since passage of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 that authorized the resumption of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba. The U.S.-Cuba Trade Association estimates the total amount exported to Cuba since 2000 as nearly $2 billion.
Even that relatively small effort involves more than 35 states that have entered into agreements to sell American products to Cuba, which by law Cuba has to pay in advance. Interest is growing. In August, New Mexico's Navajo Agricultural Products Industry signed a letter of intent to sell produce to Cuba, New Mexico's first such agreement with the island.
"We cannot let other countries come in there and build businesses at the expense of us, "says Mr. Ortiz.
"I've always voted for the embargo, but now that I went there and saw what is happening, all these other countries in the middle of it … we need to be friendlier toward Cuba. I'm going to change my vote. God says he enjoys when a sinner repents."
1898 Two months after an explosion sank the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, the United States declares war on Spain. Spain grants Cuba's independence as part of the treaty ending the Spanish-American War.
1901 Provisions known as the Platt Amendment are incorporated into the Cuban Constitution, thereby making Cuba essentially a protectorate of the United States. The amendment is subsequently repealed in 1934, although the United States maintains control of Guantanamo Bay naval base.
1958 Fidel Castro's guerilla army forces dictator Fulgencio Batista and his regime to flee Cuba on New Year's Eve.
1960 Cuba nationalizes U.S. corporate assets, and the United States responds by imposing a partial embargo excluding food and medicine.
1961 CIA-trained Cuban exiles attack Castro forces in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Its failure initiated a total U.S. embargo on Cuba. A ban on travel is introduced for all U.S. citizens.
1975 The United States announces that it will allow foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to sell in Cuba. It will also stop penalizing other foreign nations from doing business with Cuba.
1977 President Carter lifts the travel and spending ban for U.S. citizens.
1980 Fidel Castro relaxes emigration restrictions resulting in a massive migration of Cubans to the United States more than 125,000 people via the Muriel Boat Lift.
1981 Newly elected President Ronald Reagan announces a tightening of the embargo. The following year, the Reagan Administration re-establishes the travel and spending ban for U.S. citizens.
1992 The Cuban Democracy Act passes in Congress, prohibiting foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba and blocks family remittances from the United States to Cuba.
1996 President Bill Clinton signs the Helms-Burton Act, which makes the Cuban embargo law, but more importantly allows U.S. businesses and citizens to sue foreign investors who profit from expropriated U.S. assets seized by the Cuban government.
2000 President Clinton relaxes the trade ban to allow the sale of agriculture and medicine to Cuba for humanitarian purposes. In 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department issues a rule requiring Cuba to pay for U.S. imports up front.
2006 June 5: The Bush Administration suspends operations of remittance agencies to Cuba as part of its intensifying economic war against the communist country.
2006 August 1: Fidel Castro hands over power to his brother Raϊl due to an emergency surgery. It is the first time that Fidel is known to have ceded power since he won control of Cuba in 1959.