Ever since the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana, Cubans have been looking ahead to what the future might hold.
Many seem confident that the new direction will bring about positive changes. The reopening of the respective embassies, last month in Washington and now in Havana, is considered a milestone by many.
“That, after so many years, Cuba and the United States have relations again will be of great benefit for families: both the families over there and those here,” says Havana resident Idalia Cuellar.
Many issues still need to be solved, especially concerning democratic reforms on the island. Opposition groups say that crackdowns on dissidents continue and restrictions of free speech and media remain, despite US pressure to improve human rights.
“We are not hoping for, and I don’t think from the governments either, that there will be anything spectacular from the restoration of ties,because the Cuban government refuses to enact the urgent reforms that Cuba needs on civil rights, politics, the economy, social and even cultural areas,” says the National Human Rights & Reconciliation Commission’s Elizardo Sanchez.
Seventy-eight-year-old Eladio Aguilar belongs to the generation who countered the failed US-sponsored invasion in the Bay of Pigs. He claims that normalization with the powerful neighbour will not be the end of revolutionary ideals.
“Perhaps some dreamers or others, who are superficial, think this will be the end of Socialism, no sir. And they think that with the demise of the historic generation, Socialism in Cuba will be over. But it’s not like that,” he says.
Aside from ideology, many hope that the US sanctions will soon be over. According to a Cuban government report released last year, the US embargo imposed in 1962 has caused more that 1.2 trillion dollars in direct losses to Cuba’s economy.
“People in the U.S. refer to the blockade as an ‘embargo’. But in fact the U.S. sanctions were much more than an embargo; they were far more complicated and ruthless. Because of them, we failed to meet our plans in the development of education, culture, sports and many other fields,” says the Secretary of the Cuban Peace Movement Manuel Yepe.
As many prepare to turn the page on a difficult past, other have just celebrated the 89th birthday of Fidel Castro, attending concerts and cultural events. The former leader, who governed for 48 years, embodies the good and bad Cuba has been going through since the revolution.