HAVANA TIMES — When, on December 17, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced that the last of the five Cuban agents who’d been imprisoned in the United States for nearly 15 years would return home, the news, though expected by some, took many by surprise, especially those who’d lost hope they would ever be reunited to their homeland and dear ones.
If the emotive images of the so-called spies returning to Cuba as heroes were incredible, so was the announcement that diplomatic relations between the two nations would be reestablished after more than 50 years of conflict.
Millions of Cubans living on both sides of the Strait of Florida began to speculate! Everyone, from primary-schoolers (who have been instilled with visceral hatred towards the government of the world’s greatest power), through young people (who long to move to the land of opportunity) to those in Miami, who could not imagine any understanding with the Castros – not with the immortal Fidel and far less with his younger brother Raul.
At different times after December 17, I’ve talked with a number of people in Guantanamo who like me, had begun to think about a Cuba that was friends with the yanks.
Daniela, a professor at the University of Guantanamo, says that, for her, the most important thing is for the two countries to start living in peace, despite their differences.
Luisito, a 12-year-old child, says that the only thing he cares about is for his dad to be able to come to Cuba whenever he can and for him to bring over everything he needs, until he can take him and his mother with him for good.
Nicolas, the chair of a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), says we cannot trust the United States much, that one cannot drop one’s guard where the enemy is concerned (and now more than ever). According to him, the coming-and-going of yanks won’t be as good as we think.
For Raul, who works in a cafe, this is what he’s been hoping for all along. He says that in politics, as in life, one has to be smart. Fighting with one’s neighbors doesn’t achieve anything, he claims. On the contrary, we must get along and get the most out of that relationship. He hopes that, as more and more US citizens come to the island, privately-run businesses will continue to prosper, that what we need is a strong economy.
“For those of us with nearly the entire family living in the United States, nothing could be better than this,” says a dentist whose relatives are all living on the other side of the Florida Strait and whose main interest is maintaining ties with her loved ones.
“Dollars, what we need are greenbacks. That’s how all problems are solved, and no one has more money than the yanks. We have to stretch out our hands towards those people, see if we can get out of this backwardness,” a barber says. One of his customers remarks that, if US businesspeople start to invest in Cuba, not all of our problems will be solved, but it will surely be a huge step forward.
On May 21 to 22, the fourth round of conversations between the two countries was held in Washington, again in an atmosphere of respect and understanding. After more than 50 years, a group of Cuban journalists entered the White House. We hope that new doors continue to open and all of the changes announced by Obama continue to materialize.
On May 29, the US State Department officially took Cuba off its list of countries that sponsor terrorism. Cuba has also found a bank willing to hold the accounts of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, which may become the Cuban embassy in the near future.
Though we all are relieved to see the beginning of trade with the United States, we shouldn’t start thinking that the solution to all of our problems is to be found ninety miles from our costs. We must continue to make progress through our own efforts, for only thus will be create the Cuba we all want.