By Brian Snelson from Hockley, Essex, England (Flying the flagUploaded by Smooth_O) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

County Residents React to the Newly Open Cuban Embassy In Washington D.C.

By Slowking4 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

PHOTO | Slowking4

The Cuban Embassy reopened in Washington D.C. on July 20 after more than 50 years of a broken relationship between Cuba and U.S.

In Montgomery County, some see this as a step towards a better association between the two countries.

Daniel Parra, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Montgomery County, said “It’s a very good beginning after more than fifty years of that situation. … It requires for both countries to adjust in many many ways.”

Congressman Chris Van Hollen shared on his Twitter account today was a historic day “as Cuban flag flies once again over 16th St., marking a new era of engagement [with] the Cuban people.”

On December 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the countries and Alan Gross, a USAID subcontractor who lived in Potomac, was released from a Cuban prison.

Montgomery College English professor and coordinator of the college’s study abroad program Greg Malveaux said a group of 24 people – among them students and faculty members – traveled to Cuba in January of 2014 as part of the college’s International Education Program.

Malveaux said it was not difficult to get visas for a group of people, but it required special permissions from the Cuban government and a letter from Montgomery College staff confirming the accuracy of the program. At the time of the trip, Malveaux said they did not call it an “embassy, they called it something else.”

If it were not for the study abroad program, “There’s no way I could get visas for myself or individuals,” he said.

To Malveaux, the reopening of this embassy means, a “lot of less time and approvals and a lot of less time in terms of having to go through orientations,” he added.

The professor also said the students learned a lot about the country during their 12-day trip, but said he remembers seeing a man, who looked like a homeless man, always present in every place the group decided to visit.

“It was odd that this homeless person could get around the way we could get around,” Malveaux said, adding that otherwise the trip was “smooth” and Cubans are friendly, kind, and generous people.

He said there was so much interest in this trip that he had to turn people away. Now that the Cuba Embassy is opened again, there is the possibility of another Cuba trip.

Lorna Virgili, a Montgomery County resident said she hopes this historic day translates into freedom for the people of Cuba and the end of that oppressing dictatorship.

“For now, it is just a symbol of how President Obama has allowed that regime concessions without requiring true political change,” Virgili said.

As for the Chamber, Parra said it hopes to host a seminar this year to talk about what this relationship means to Cubans, Americans, and Cuban-Americans.

“One of the things that we are trying to put together is a detailed workshop,” Parra said.

Aline Barros

About Aline Barros

Aline Barros is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at Abarros@mymcmedia.org and on Twitter at @AlineBarros2.

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