A Chance to Breach Divide for Young in Cuba and US – ABC News
Daniela Martinez long figured that someday she would leave the struggles of daily life in Cuba and join her uncle in the United States, but after the events of the last few days, the 18-year-old medical student thinks exile may not be her only choice.
“He always tells me things are better there,” Martinez said, gesturing with her chin toward the sea leading to Florida. Dangling her legs over the edge of the Malecon, the iconic concrete seawall where entertainment-starved young Havanans gather each evening, she said, “I think things are going to get better.”
For a generation that grew up believing the best way to pursue their dreams was to leave the island, the announcement this week that Cuba will open relations with the United States is prompting many to reevaluate their futures. At the same time, Cuban-Americans are considering what the changes will mean for their lives, with some even wondering whether they are significant enough to present a once far-fetched chance for them to return.
The five decades of estrangement since Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban revolution have created an economic and psychological gulf much wider than the 90 miles of the Florida Straits. But the opening of relations, with increased travel and communication, stands to narrow those differences and create new opportunities, especially for young people less burdened by the past.
For Cubans like Martinez, it may mean that becoming a doctor won’t limit her to a meager state salary. For others, there is the hope of Internet access and an end to the desperation that leads thousands to migrate each year. Cuban-Americans, meanwhile, see the possibility of starting businesses in their homeland, connecting with their roots and putting aside the bitterness of parents and grandparents who were arrested, exiled or had property seized in the revolution.
“My family always said they weren’t going back until Fidel died,” said Vanessa Garcia, a 35-year-old writer in Miami whose parents left Cuba in the 1960s. “But it seemed like that was something that was hurting us rather than helping us in many ways. It’s lasted much longer than anybody thought it would.”
Some change already has been in the works. Cuba did away with a longstanding restriction on overseas travel last year, and knowledge of modern culture has been making its way into the island via TV and flash drives brought from overseas ? enough for people here to know what they are missing. Young people increasingly are on Facebook, even if they don’t manage to get online often. And in the other direction, Cuban-Americans have been visiting in greater numbers, often helping to keep their extended families afloat.
Many in Florida grew up hearing their grandparents’ stories about fleeing from communism. The revolution, they were taught, brought an end to freedom and ushered in tyranny. Cubans on the island, meanwhile, learned from state propaganda that the Yankees were the enemy and capitalism was savage. Anybody who left was called a “worm.”
But Cubans and Cuban-Americans find that when they meet, they have much more in common than expected. They share the same hand gestures, slang and even taste in music. They love baseball with a passion. “Everybody says their grandmother’s flan is the best and nobody knows how to make a Cuban sandwich except the place that they know,” said Dave Sandoval, a musician in Washington.