The Castro regime is why my family left Cuba. It was 1960, one year after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution, and my family took the short hop of a flight to Florida, arriving in Miami as political exiles. They set up a new life, one that, for a while at least, was lived under the belief that the revolution couldn’t last. When Castro was gone, they’d return home.
It’s been 62 years, and more than 1 million Cuban immigrants have fled. My grandparents died in Florida, as have most people from their generation of refugees, and even though Fidel is long dead, too, the island remained under the control of his brother. Until Monday, when Raúl Castro stepped down.
The lack of a Castro, finally, as the head of the Cuban government might seem monumental. In reality, it’s a change in name only — for now, at least. The hand-picked successor is expected to be more of the same, but that same, many hope, will include a slow opening of Cuba to the world and the benefits of a market economy. At the same time, a new leader in Havana is an opening for those advocating for major change — largely the nation’s young people — to push for reform more forcefully; a new leader in Washington offers a glimmer of hope to loosen restrictions even more.