Area Residents Rejoice at New Cuba Policy

By Friedenberger, Amy | The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA), December 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Area Residents Rejoice at New Cuba Policy


Friedenberger, Amy, The Roanoke Times (Roanoke, VA)


Nestor Moreno Sanchez's phone was ringing all day with calls from Cubans eager to talk about the United States restoring relations with Cuba.

"I'm just really happy. It was a surprise," he said. "This is going to be a good thing."

His friends, like several Roanoke Valley Cubans on Wednesday, reacted mostly with joy when President Barack Obama announced that the two countries, estranged for more than five decades, would establish full diplomatic relations.

Sanchez, who co-owns Casa Munda and Driving Ed with his Dominican wife, Rocio Trigo, was busy helping Spanish speakers with any paperwork they bring to him for help. A trio of Cubans at the northwest Roanoke office Wednesday said they were happy to hear the news about the U.S. and Cuba.

"Next time, we'll vote for Obama," joked Victor Portelles, who's been in the United States for 20 years.

Reactions around the country have been mixed between supportive and critical of Obama's move toward normalizing relations with the island nation. The United States will open an embassy in Havana and ease restrictions of commerce, travel and banking relations. Cuba and the United States arranged for a series of prisoner releases from both sides.

Estela Gonzeles said people were asking her at her restaurant, Cuban Island Restaurant in northwest Roanoke, about the U.S. and Cuba moving to build relations after they were severed in 1961 after the rise of Fidel Castro and his communist government.

"I'm really happy about it because it's good for the Cubans," she said. "And it's good for relations between Cuba and the U.S."

Gonzeles came to the United States in 1994 on a tiny boat named Skip. She lived in various cities before settling in Roanoke and starting her business with her husband, Manuel Hidalgo.

Ricardo Avila and his daughter Cindy, eating dinner at Cuban Island, were somewhat ambivalent of Wednesday's announcement.

Cindy Avila thought the move sounded like a positive one, while Ricardo Avila was hesitant to believe that that sweeping policy changes would translate to improved lives for Cubans while the Castro regime continues to stay in power. …

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