This was the best Christmas gift ever for me, for hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans and for the 11 million Cubans on the island.
I’m talking about the history-making announcement by President Obama of a sea change in U.S.-Cuba relations after more than 50 years of irrationality and hostility — something I had come to believe would not happen in my lifetime.
“Incredible news I’ve waited my entire life to hear,” said Ralph Ortega, editor-in-chief of On Wall Street and a former Daily News reporter. “I wish my dad, who was Cuban, was here for this.”
Yes, unexpectedly, it did happen.
Not only is Alan Gross, the American who spent five years in a Cuban jail, reunited with his family on the first day of Chanukah, but three Cubans who for 15 years were imprisoned in the U.S. for spying are back in their country just in time for Christmas.
As Milena Recio, an editor of the online publication Progreso Weekly, said from Havana, “It is good that the road to a re-encounter among both nations had begun with a humanitarian gesture.”
The actions Obama announced Wednesday have profound implications for Cuba and Latin America.
Even if only Congress can put an end to the shameful embargo, Obama and Raul Castro are opening a dialogue on everything else.
The thousands of people of good will in Cuba and in the U.S. who worked hard for many years to see this day are feeling joy and accomplishment. “We did it,” said an elated Arturo López Levy, a professor in Denver who was born in Cuba. “It is everybody’s victory for peace and good relations and nobody’s defeat.”
On the island ruled by the Castro brothers since 1959, University of Havana students are celebrating and there is excitement coupled with a sense of new possibilities.
“It is one of the most exciting moments we have lived,” Recio said.
In Miami, opinions are sharply split and emotions are at a boiling point. The Marco Rubios of this world are pulling their hair in panic, but most Cuban-Americans are hailing Obama’s move as brave and moral and fair.
“At last there is a President with common sense in Washington,” said Vicente Dopico, a Miami-based Cuban-American artist.
Yes, the best Christmas gift ever to Cubans and all people of good will is really happening. And almost incredibly, I have lived long enough to see it . . .
Happy holidays to all!
[Photo on top is of columnist Albor Ruiz, who also writes a weekly column for Progreso Weekly.]
(From the: NY Daily News)