For Black Cubans, That Handshake Was Hope

Suffering under sanctions, they see small changes under the Obama administration and look for more.

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“We’re in dialogue with the United States about many things, all the time,” Lopez said.

That’s why Lopez wasn’t all that surprised by the handshake between Obama. Neither was Michael Cobiella, chief of the publishing house of the Fernando Ortiz Foundation, which focuses on the study of Afro-Cubans and other ethnic cultures that comprise Cuban society.

“I’m a Cuban. I can never be surprised,” Cobiella said. “I think that we have never had anything against the U.S. people, even in the worse crises.

“There were some bad things said, some wrong things said, but we have never had anything against the U.S. people.”

And when a U.S. president steps up and shakes the hand of their president during the funeral of a leader like Mandela, whom the Cuban people loved, it’s a little tough not to hope.

“The best homage to Mandela was that handshake,” Rolando said. “Nelson Mandela believed in establishing dialogue with others ...

“In the history of humankind, there have been many beginnings to many positive things. Maybe this is one of those beginnings.”

Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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