Many Cuban Americans mellowing to new Cuba policy

Tue May 19, 2009 3:43pm EDT
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By Pascal Fletcher

MIAMI (Reuters) - Smiling Cubans pose for photographs on a scuffed seafront wall against the backdrop of Havana's historic Morro castle and a glittering azure sea.

But the Morro backdrop is a brightly-lit glossy color poster and the artificial wall carries the scrawled slogans "Down with Fidel!" and "Down with the Castro Dictatorship!"

This is Miami, not Havana, and the Cubans are from the 1.5-million strong exile community in the United States, many of them lifelong opponents of communist rule.

The fake Malecon seawall loomed large at a "Cuba Nostalgia" festival in Miami this month that showcased images and memories of life in Cuba before Fidel Castro's 1959 Revolution. Fidel Castro stepped aside because of ill health and last year was replaced as president by his younger brother, Raul Castro.

Despite the occasional anti-Castro slogan and an exhibit by veterans of the failed 1961 U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion, politics at the Miami event mostly took a back seat to bittersweet reminiscence.

This could reflect a softening mood in an exile community long seen as a Republican bastion and whose disproportionate political influence in the United States has helped keep Washington's sanctions on Cuba in place for decades.

But with a new Democratic president in the White House offering a "new beginning" with Cuba, many see Miami's Cuban American community migrating from its traditional "no surrender, no dialogue" posture toward Havana to more engagement and contact with the homeland they left behind.

Observers say that as the diehard anti-Castro generation grows older, and younger exiles have arrived since 1980, many Cuban Americans are more pragmatic and more influenced by the needs of relatives still in Cuba.   Continued...

<p>A Cuban-American woman poses for a picture next to a replica of Havana's seawall, known as Malecon, during the Cuba Nostalgia festival in Miami May 16, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>