US reconnects with Cuba, a country frozen in time

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
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's speech in La Habana. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
(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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