Progress in Cuba: A Cuban Millennial's Take on Obama’s Visit

Obama shakes the hands of the Cuban people during his visit Sunday, March 20, 2016.EXPAND
Obama shakes the hands of the Cuban people during his visit Sunday, March 20, 2016.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama's most recent visit to Cuba was all about progress. It means change is coming. 

I moved to the United States when I was 4 years old. I don't remember Cuba. Like Dan Le Batard, who penned “Obama in Cuba Brings the Pain of Loss to a Miami Family” for the Miami Herald, all I've known is freedom. But that's not the case for my parents and grandparents. 

My grandma’s father died of a heart attack when members of the Communist militia came to seize his land; the same thing happened to my dad’s grandpa. Thanks to a visa lottery that took place almost 19 years ago, my parents and I jumped on a plane to Miami and never looked back. My dad even left his son behind, all for the promise of a better life.

We had a little apartment with an old TV set and a mattress on the floor. We didn't know if we would ever see our family again — we didn't know if we would survive here — but the promise of freedom was enough. If you ask my mother, she says she would do it all over again.

I understand why people are angry. I understand why those who have personally experienced this pain feel disrespected and cheated.

What I don't understand is why so many people want to normalize relations between the U.S. and Cuba but don't want to take the necessary steps to achieve it. The embargo was a failure — that's well documented. It has been 57 years, and nothing has changed. After more than a half-century do we really expect the Castros to roll over and play dead? Do we really expect them to admit all of their human rights violations and that they have kept political prisoners and now all of a sudden will release them? No.

What Obama's visit is doing is far beyond asking two perpetual criminals to transform their ways. Rather, it gives hope to the people.

It's hope in the form of information and exposure. If you've ever been to Cuba or seen images of it, you know it's stuck in the '50s, and that's because that decade was the last time the island's residents had even a remote idea of what was happening in the world. Children are taught that the U.S. wants to bomb them. The population is convinced that although they may be faring badly, the rest of the world is doing worse. That's how the regime pacifies the need for revolt. But when these trips happen, Cubans see there is a world far beyond the small confines in which they've been kept. They begin to want more.

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Regardless of our president's shortcomings on foreign policy, the exposure he has given Cuba is a good thing. The knowledge his trip is stirring within Cuban people is a good thing.

The pain runs deep — I get it. But progress, regardless of how minuscule, is progress. And after a 57-year stalemate, it's really all we can hope for.  Le Batard was correct that most Cubans in America are exiles, not immigrants. I also agree that the pain of the exile is not unique — Miami as a whole feels it.


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