Graduates of The Revolution

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from Bloomberg Businessweek,

Alfonso Morre spent nine years studying applied mechanics and civil engineering. That training has come in handy in his job driving a taxi in Havana. Morre spends his days ferrying tourists around in a 26-year-old Russian-made Lada—and his spare time repairing the damage done to it by the city’s cobbled streets. He hopes President Obama’s recent decision to loosen restrictions on banking, travel, and trade with Cuba will create opportunities for the tens of thousands of university-educated Cubans like him trapped in low-skill jobs. “Once the U.S. trade opens up, companies will come here looking for engineers,” says Morre, 33. “Once the new cars and spare parts start coming in, you won’t need to be an engineer to run a taxi here.”

The Caribbean nation of 11.3 million has the best-educated workforce in Latin America—a distinction that may prove to be the Cuban Revolution’s most lasting legacy.

Cuban-born residents of the U.S. earn 20 percent more on average than the country’s Hispanic population overall, and they’re more likely to own their home, according to an analysis of 2011 Census data by the Pew Research Center. About 2 million Hispanics of Cuban descent live in the U.S.

An emphasis on hard sciences such as medicine and engineering helped the country weather the end of Soviet subsidies in the ’90s. Havana has sent 30,000 doctors to Venezuela under a barter arrangement that has the South American country supply Cuba with about 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

The skilled labor pool will be a big draw for companies looking for investment opportunities on the island should the U.S. agree to end the half-century-old trade embargo.

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