THE CAMERA PANNED away from a garbage fire in the middle of the street and followed the young men who had set it. The men were calling to a nearby band of demonstrators. "The people are afraid they might be provocateurs, under orders from Castro," said the television announcer. "This is rowdier than most Miami traffic jams, but it isn't a riot; it's the beginning of a catharsis."
The disturbances that followed the removal of Elian Gonzalez from his Miami relatives' home by armed federal agents were indeed part of a catharsis, though not its beginning. The outpouring of emotion started months earlier, not on the streets but in homes and churches, away from the television cameras. Some people say they are angrier than they've been in years, but they are also talking and listening to each other more. If that continues, there is hope for dialogue within the Cuban exile community--which is probably prerequisite for dialogue with the rest of the city.
Of the more than 700,000 Cuban-Americans in metropolitan Miami, perhaps a third identify with the fervent anti-Castro old guard. At the other extreme, a small group (mostly younger and American-educated) favor normalizing political and economic relations with Cuba, although they remain critical of the Castro regime. In between are what some call the "silent majority," who visit or send money and material aid to friends and relatives on the island, but avoid confrontation with the old guard.
There is little public discussion among these groups. "We don't talk about dialogue," says Quaker peace advocate Eduardo Diaz. "Dialoguero has been a fighting word since the 1970s," he says, for it was a term applied to those who supported negotiations with Castro. Others point out that public disagreement was never an option for ordinary citizens in Cuba, and for Miami Cubans it seems …