US reconnects with Cuba, a country frozen in time

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Cuba: Then and Now

On Friday John Kerry will make history as he becomes the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Cuba in more than seven decades. His visit is a pivotal milestone in the relationship between the two countries, one which has been fraught with tension for decades, and has had a significant impact in Cuba.

In many ways, the island just 90 miles south of Key West is frozen in time.

No commercials, no chain stores, very few signs, and pristine 1950s Cadillacs cruise the streets lined with crumbling, but beautiful, architecture.

SEE ALSO: Fidel Castro turns 89; says US has hefty debt to Cuba

Western conveniences like the Internet, international banking, microwaves, and air conditioning are either obsolete or hard to come by.

Cuba is very much exactly the way it was when the U.S. left it.

On January 3, 1961 a gallon of gas was just 27 cents. The number one song in the U.S. was Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" And with just a few days left in his presidency Dwight D. Eisenhower closed the U.S. embassy in Havana and severed diplomatic relations completely.

Timeline of the key events in the history of the relationship:

Relations between the U.S and Cuban governments had been deteriorating steadily as Fidel Castro seized power in 1959.

The U.S. placed an embargo on exports to Cuba after it nationalized American-owned Cuban oil refineries without compensation.

On February 7, 1962 the embargo was extended to include almost all imports, which nearly crippled the small country technologically.

Now, more than 50 years later, Kerry will make history Friday as he raises the American flag at the U.S. Embassy. It's a move that will officially mark the end of an era and a new beginning for a country long stuck in the past.

See how Cuba looked when the U.S. severed ties:

Old Cuba
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US reconnects with Cuba, a country frozen in time
New skyscrapers, multi-million dollar hotels and apartment buildings are rising like magic along Havana's famed Malecon Sea Boulevard bordering the Gulf of Mexico, January 23, 1958. This aerial view shows Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of first modern hotels erected 27 years ago (left, foreground, whitefaced) the new $6,000,000 Hotel Capri, directly behind the Nacional; a string of new ultra modern apartment buildings, to right of Nacional; the US Embassy (first building at right next to the sea); and new $14,000,000 Hotel Riviera (second building, right, at top of photo.) (AP Photo)
A view of the new U.S. Embassy, in Havana, Cuba, with its garden in the foreground, which has been built on the outskirts of Havana on a hill overlooking the sea, is shown April 24, 1942. The two-story stone mansion, which will be occupied by the new American ambassador to Cuba Spruille Braden when he arrives here, was constructed at a cost of $300,000. It has eight master bedrooms, seven master baths, four dressing rooms, great reception, living and dining rooms, besides three kitchens and service pantries, porches, terraces and servants quarters. (AP Photo/La Prensa)
General view of international Casino in Hotel Nacional De Cuba in Havana, October 1, 1958. This is one of the ten big casinos in Cuba whose operations now are in hands of North American gambling interests. (AP Photo)
Patron's of Havana's gambling rooms are divided about evenly between tourists from the United States and Cubans. Gamblers are shown here tbetting at the Roulette Wheel, February 9, 1956. (AP Photo)
CUBA - JANUARY 01: In the 1960's in Cuba, tractors and agricultural machines harvesting the sugar cane. This modern equipment facilitates the mechanization of Cuban agriculture. In spite of a planned economy installed in 1961, Cuba, number one world exporter of sugar, maintained its agricultural priorities from the previous period. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Fidel Castro is pictured at the front during the Bay of Pigs invasion in this 1961 photo. (AP PHOTO)
Among scores of Cubans trying frantically to obtain a U.S. visa before the American embassy closed was this Cuban-American who brought along a framed World War II certificate with his passport in Havana, Jan. 4, 1961. (AP Photo)
A view from the presidential palace to the entrance to Havana Bay, showing segments of the huge crowd of workers and peasants who heard and cheered Fidel Castro in Havana, Oct. 26, 1959. Crowd estimates ran upward to 400,000 with Cuban radio announcers claiming a million. Statue at top center is that of Maximo Gomez. (AP Photo)
View of 23rd St. in Havana, July 15, 1964. (AP Photo)
An exterior view of the Cran-Casino-Nacional Casino is shown in Havana, Cuba in an undated photo.(AP Photo)
A view of the Hotel National from the Gulf of Mexico side is shown in Havana, Cuba on Sept. 27, 1957.(AP Photo/Harold Valentine)
This aerial view shows downtown Havana, Cuba, Jan. 1958. At left is Central Park, bordering the Prado street and at center, right, is Cuba's Capitol Building. (AP Photo)
View of Malecon Drive as seen from the roof of the Nacional Hotel looking toward the heart of the city, Feb. 15, 1946. (AP Photo/Charles Kenneth Lucas)
Stampeded by Fidel Castro's orders for the U.S. embassy to reduce its staff to 12 officials within 48 hours, scores of Cuban nationals flocked to the American diplomatic mission's headquarters in hopes of obtaining a visa. The visa section was closed as the embassy made preparations to cut its staff in Havana, Jan. 3, 1961. This is but a small portion of the crowd around the embassy. (AP Photo)
Fidel Castro's speech in La Habana. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
General view of Havana shown in September 1968 with this street scene leading to El Capitolio, now a national museum used as a meeting place for visiting foreign dignitaries to Cuba. (AP Photo)
This is the modernistic, $15 million Hotel Riviera, one of the newest in the string of luxury hotels dotting the Malecon Boulevard skyline in Havana, Cuba, Sept. 24, 1958. This is a view of the front entrance of the hotel, built by U.S. interests. The dome-shaped structure at the right is the Riviera's gold-leafed gambling casino. (AP Photo)
(GERMANY OUT) Cuba : Hemingway, Ernest *21.07.1899-02.07.1961+ Writer, USA Winner of the nobel prize for literature 1954 - Hemingway's former house 'Finca Vigia' in San Francisco de Paula near Havana, Cuba, today a museum; exterior view - 1971 - Photographer: ullstein - Kanus (Photo by Kanus/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

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