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¡Hola nonstops! Sun Country to run flights from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Cuba

Matanzas, Cuba,is about an hour drive away from Havana. Maybe you can borrow one of these cars?

Matanzas, Cuba,is about an hour drive away from Havana. Maybe you can borrow one of these cars?

It's been more than 18 months since President Barack Obama announced that the United States would begin to "normalize relations" between this country and Cuba.

The international rift goes back more than five decades. Our "relations" with Cuba include that one time they, as an instrument of the Soviets, thought about blowing us off the map, and the many, many times we tried killing Fidel Castro.

Those days are long gone. But what does "normalizing" mean to you, if you're not a diplomat?

As of Friday afternoon, it will soon mean you can drive to the airport and touch down in Cuba about four hours later. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced five American cities that had made the list for direct flights to various cities in Cuba. (None are Havana: The country's biggest city and its capital won't know which American cities it's paired with until later this year.)

Miami (of course) and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will get a direct U.S.-to-Cuba flight, as will Philadelphia and Chicago, making Minneapolis-St. Paul easily the farthest north and west — and therefore the longest flights approved here.

Minneapolis-St. Paul fliers will be landing in one of two cities: Matanzas, a northern coastal city roughly an hour's drive from Havana, and Santa Clara, located in the center of the country. The deal between the countries allows for "up to 10" daily flights to each of the cities listed; other American cities will be flying in to different Cuban locales. 

D.O.T. didn't announce just when these flights would be taking off, but with a promise of "later in 2016," we might be looking at a wheels-up time right around when that Minnesota chill starts settling in. One of our more patient tourists will have to explain to the Cubans what that's like.