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‘I don’t see a change’: Cuban community reflects on what Castro’s departure really means for country

Published: Apr. 24, 2021 at 4:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 25, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Friday, Cuba’s leader of the Communist party, Raul Castro, shared that he was stepping down from his position as First Secretary after 10 years in the position. The Castro family has been in power since the late 1950′s.

The question is, does this move mean change for Cuba?

Manny Arisso, a partner at Tallahassee’s Hangar 38, described how he explains to others how he feels upon hearing the news, “Imagine if this were you. How would you then feel about what is happening in Cuba and the political situation in Cuba?”

Arisso comes from a lineage of Cubans. His father left Cuba at the age of seven and his mother fled in the 1970′s. He thinks Raul Castro stepping down will not change the country his parents left more than 60 years ago.

“There is some symbolism and opportunities for change,” said Arisso. “But at the same time it’s going to be the same old, same old.”

Erick Yurra, the owner of Habana’s Boardwalk, was born in Havana in 1974. At the age of 20, he, along with his family, escaped the island.

“We spent 9 months in Guantanamo Bay before we were brought to the United States as refugees,” recalled Yurra. “I have not been back since then.”

Yurra’s island is no longer associated with the Castro’s, but he believes that they are far from free of communist rule.

“Him stepping down might have to do with his health, his age, we think he wants to get out a little bit,” said Yurra. “But nothing is going to change.”

Castro’s replacement is current Cuban President Miguel Diaz Canel. He will be the first person to hold this position not associated with the infamous Castro name since 1953.

“He was close to both Castro’s,” shared Assistant Professor of Caribbean History, Anasa Hicks. “He was close to Raul, he hasn’t shown a predilection towards a move away from communism, and again, communism is not over. Raul is just no longer the head of the communist party.”

Professor Hicks said while there is hope, Cuba may not be ready.

“While there are certainly calls for reform by many Cuban Americans and inside of Cuba, I am not convinced that Cubans would say they would want a complete turn away from communism or complete turn towards to capitalism,” said Hicks. “People want change largely, but that doesn’t mean people all over Cuba are longing for the day that there is no more communism. I don’t think that’s what’s happening.”

Those who call Cuba their history, like Yurra, think the same.

“The hope would be some kind of change that would bring an end to the 60 plus years of Castro’s government,” said Yurra. “But to be honest, I don’t see a change from the top to the bottom, nor the bottom to the top.”

Yurra and Arisso hope that one day, Cuba will be able to return to what they believe it can be.

Hicks added that the Castro regime has overshadowed other smaller movements in recent years on the island. Most notably, the San Isidro movement has been continuing, where artists are speaking out for creative freedoms.

Yurra raised questions as to how Canel’s leadership might influence new dynamics between the government and military.

Hicks also pointed out that throughout Cuba’s history, there have been various moments where people believe the end of communism on the island is near. She emphasized that the end is not inevitable, nor is it Cuba’s only future.

When asked what she believed it would take to change Cuba’s course, she was not sure, but does believe the move of Castro’s departure is a symbolic one.

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