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Legislators, St. Olaf jazz band latest to tighten Minnesota-Cuba connection

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The path between Minnesota and Cuba is about to get some more traffic.

A bipartisan group of five state lawmakers plans an unofficial visit to the island next month to learn more about trade opportunities, KSTP reports.

Rep. Frank Hornstein of Minneapolis says when family members and staff are added, about 20 people will make the trip. But he says they'll pay their own way since they're not an official state delegation.

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Since the U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba last December, Minnesota companies – agribusinesses, in particular – have been looking to make the most of new opportunities.

But there are cultural as well as commercial bridges.

This week St. Olaf College in Northfield announced that Cuba's Ministry of Culture has invited its ensemble, St. Olaf Jazz, to perform a series of concerts in Havana next spring.

St. Olaf says the 21 undergraduate musicians in the group will have chances to play alongside Cuban jazz artists during the March 20-25 trip.

Last spring it was the Minnesota Orchestra that traveled to Cuba for a well received concert series that is still getting airplay on some of the world's classical music services.

This month Gov. Mark Dayton joined eight of his peers around the country in asking Congress to lift the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

Earlier this year U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation that would do that, and then she headed to the island to promote the idea there.

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