U.S. Cuban relations on the mend

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U.S. Cuban relations on the mend




Jesse Castro, Tishauna Carrell, Leandra Galloway, Sophia Karkazis, and XiaoMeng Wu

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As the U.S. and Cuba negotiate the renewal of diplomatic relations and mutual interests, Cubans in the Bay Area are expressing their hopes and concerns for future travel, and business.

“It’s a positive thing, it’s a good thing,” said co-founder of the Bay Area Cuba Community Alliance Felix Ernesto Torres Chaviano. The 44-year-old Cuban national has been in the United States for ten years.  He said he feels the efforts can potentially influence other parts of the world. “It’s an important moment for all the planet,” he commented.

The BACCA is a non-profit organization operated from the home of Chaviano and Nina Basker, in Fairfax. They provide humanitarian assistance for isolated communities in southeastern Cuba.

Cuba and the U.S. are expected to name ambassadors to each other’s countries later this month, Cuban President Raul Castro said according to Fox News Latino. The two countries broke off relations in 1961. Negotiations are also underway to first remove Cuba from the U.S.’s State Sponsored Terrorism list and dismantle the trade embargo placed by the United States. Cuba has been placed on the terrorism list for more than 30 years. Other countries include Iran, Sudan and Syria.

There are two million Cuban Americans in the United States, according to the Pew Research. Unlike Chaviano, they include those whose family fled from Cuba due to Castro’s revolutionary period and others who say they suffered under the regime for their political or religious views.

“I won’t be traveling to Cuba as long as my grandmother is alive,” Alex McClendon said. “She would be too nervous for me to get stuck there, even though I’m a U.S. citizen and half Dominican.”

He is a first generation Cuban American whose grandparents and mother came to the U.S. during the 1960s because of Castro and communism. They have not gone back to Cuba since.

Maria, a Cuban refugee who asked to keep her last name off record due to her political oppositions to the Castro regime said, “I had no freedoms. No freedom of thinking, no freedom of opportunity, no educational freedom.” She came to the United States in 1964; five years after the revolution had ended. She said she finds some frustration in this moment in history, “Cuba is made to look like a hero… I hate them, but they are very smart… they play with Americans.”

Her views contrast sharply with other Cuban Americans whose outlook is similar to that of Chaviano and Basker.

Manuel Suarez, director of CultuCuba, an organization started to promote Cuban culture, recalls coming to the Bay Area for its abundance and appreciation of Cuban culture. CultuCuba also focuses on developing relationships with other societies of the world, according to their website.

Suarez enjoys the Cuban and Latin American music and dance performances that he attends and participates in regularly. Suarez also acknowledged the diversity of the crowds, who come and support these events.

Suarez has witnessed the ups and downs of U.S.-Cuba relations over the years and still holds an optimistic perspective of events to come. Suarez foresees benefits for the U.S. and Cuba, as well as other parts of Latin America, in the form of travel and commerce.  Basker and Chaviano concurred with Suarez’s views and discussed the possibilities of local exports and the chances that businesses in Cuba can actually sell their goods overseas and in the U.S. which will further advance the relationship between these two nations.

These developments between the U.S. and Cuba are “a new chapter for the history of Latin America, and Cuba, and good for all the countries,” Chaviano said.

They are both optimistic that their organization, which was established in 2013, can help cultivate the future of Cuban-American relations by planning a variety of community based projects, like cultural exchanges and localized business trips.