By the Cuban Flag Divided

By: Daniel Nardini

 Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryEven with all of the problems between the United States and Cuba, which includes the Alan Gross affair, tens of thousands of Cuban Americans are still going to Cuba. Whatever they are feeling about the Cuban government, and however much painful memories they have of how those who used to live in Cuba were treated by the Cuban government, they still have families they love and care about. They still have memories of their lives in Cuba that so many Cuban Americans cannot simply turn off.

The lifting of travel restrictions for Cuban Americans to be able to visit their families and be able to send remittances to those in Cuba has been a God-send for them. However, there are certain Cuban American House representatives who want to bring back the strict restrictions against Cuban Americans. These Cuban American representatives want to bring back U.S. President George W. Bush-era restrictions that will prohibit Cuban Americans from visiting Cuba to once every three years and allow Cuban Americans to send only U.S. $1,200 in remittances every three years to their families in Cuba.

These measures have no real chance to pass in the U.S. Congress. However, this whole thing is showing serious fault lines among Cuban Americans in Florida. Many Cuban Americans and Cuban immigrants who came from Cuba within the last 20 years or were born from 1990 on-wards see no point to the strict restrictions of Cuban immigrants and Cuban Americans going to Cuba. Unlike those Cuban Americans who fled from Cuba a long time ago, these people still have families there and want to maintain contact with them. These restrictions are seen as totally unwelcome from their own congressional representatives.

None of them like the Cuban government either, but family ties are very important for many Cuban Americans and they do not want to be cut off from them. Hence a growing number of Cuban immigrants and American-born Cubans are telling their congressional representatives in no uncertain terms that they do not want the Bush-era restrictions brought back. Of course, their congressional representatives seem to be ignoring them. One example is a petition signed by 1,200 people, who identified themselves as Cuban Americans in the district of U.S. House Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, calling upon their House representative not to pass Bush-era restrictions on Cuba. Diaz-Balart has so far ignored them, and said he will not deal with people who “support a totalitarian regime.”

This may prove to be a fatal mistake for Diaz-Balart. We must keep in mind that there are a growing number of Cuban Americans who want to travel to Cuba, who want to see their families and give them money to to live, and in their own way stay in contact. What all of this means is that the Cuban American communities are changing, and with these changes they do not see how to deal with Cuba in the same fashion. There is a growing divide between the “ideologues” and the “realists.” None of them like the Cuban government, but the realists want unfettered travel to Cuba, trade with Cuba, and some even want diplomatic relations with Cuba if only to protect themselves and their loved ones.

At this point only the ideologues have their representatives in the U.S. Congress. Because of this they will legislate what the ideologues in their districts want and not what the realists want. But this may change as the realists become more numerous in the largely Cuban American dominated districts. As time passes more of these realists will become U.S. citizens and vote and their children will vote. And with their votes they can change who their senators and House representatives will be. One thing is for sure, and that is there is no way to change this trend of the growing division within the Cuban American communities.

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