Local Cubans hopeful after U.S., Cuba restore diplomatic relations

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The cold war between the U.S. and Cuba finally ended Friday. For the first time in 54 years, the American flag is flying over the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Cuban dictator Fidel Castro banished U.S. diplomats from his communist regime in 1961.

While there are plenty who support and oppose this move, some Cubans who moved here to Knoxville see new opportunities for their families back home.

Ariel Salvador moved from Cuba to Knoxville three and a half years ago. He is now the chef at La Cabana Cuban Restaurant in West Knox County, and says he has heard a lot of talk since the U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations.

He only speaks Spanish, but he talked with WATE 6 On Your Side Friday night with a translator.

Prevoius story: American flag raised over the US Embassy in Cuba for first time since 1961

“He says a lot of people, they’re happy for what is going on, but some people, they don’t like what is going on,” said translator Ana Chavez.

Cuban-born Ariel Salvador (r) and translator Ana Chavez (l)
Cuban-born Ariel Salvador (r) and translator Ana Chavez (l)

For Salvador, it means the possibility to see his family more. He has not been back to Cuba since he moved to the U.S.

“He says he thinks it’s good for him because he can go back to Cuba and see his family and come back over here because he wants to stay here,” said Chavez.

The next step between the two countries is expanding economic ties with things like direct flights and mail service.

Salvador says the biggest hope for a lot of Cubans is seeing the economy improve, but he says they know that will take time.

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“Some people, they’re happy with it but it’s going to be a change. It’s going to be change a little at a time,” said Chavez.

Secretary of State John Kerry visited Cuba this week. He says the U.S. can do more for that country with this new relationship.

Cuba’s Foreign Minister says full diplomatic relations between the two countries require a complete lifting of us embargoes on Cuba, and the return of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

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