South Floridians Have Mixed Feelings on Restoration of US, Cuba Diplomatic Ties

Change is in the air as the United States and Cuba officially restored full diplomatic relations Monday after more than five decades of frosty relations rooted in the Cold War.

The last time the US and Cuba had embassies in each others respective countries, no Super Bowl had ever been played, and the Miami Dolphins football team didn't even exist.

NBC 6 has team coverage of the historic reopening of the US and Cuba embassies. More with Tracie Potts in DC, Julia Bagg in Little Havana, and reports later from Jackie Nespral in DC.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over the flag-raising ceremony at the country's embassy in Washington hours after full diplomatic relations with the U.S. were restored at the stroke of midnight, when an agreement to resume normal ties on July 20 took effect.

Earlier, without ceremony, the Cuban flag was hung in the lobby of the State Department alongside those of other countries with which the U.S. has diplomatic ties. U.S. and Cuban diplomats in Washington and Havana had also noted the upgrade in social media posts.

Several hundred people gathered on the street outside the embassy, cheering as the Cuban national anthem was played and three Cuban soldiers in dress uniforms stood at the base of the flagpole and raised the flag.

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana plans to announce its upgrade to embassy status in a written statement on Monday, but the Stars and Stripes will not fly at the mission until Kerry visits in August for a ceremonial flag-raising.

Among South Florida's Cuban communities, reaction to the historic change was divided. At Cafe Versailles in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, opinions on the topic were varied.

The Cuba flag is set to fly over the nation’s capital tomorrow for the first time in more than 50 years. NBC 6’s Laura Rodriguez reports that, as with most U.S.-Cuba topics, the official embassy ceremony is a controversial moment.

Ildefonso Vasquez told NBC 6 that he looks forward to the change.

"I think it's excellent," Vasquez said. "It's like opening new ways of communication."

But Juan Peña, a Cuban exile, says he disagrees with the move.

"It's a sad day and an infamy day," Peña said. "For President Obama to give a gift to the Castro regime."

Protesters gathered on some street corners holding signs calling President Obama a traitor and saying "Helping Castro is a crime." Supporters of the move also gathered to share their support.

"This is another day of infamy for [the] United States, I'm very sorry for Americans," Laura Vianello said. "We represent the Cuban exile community and today your president, Obama, had brought in your enemy."

Activist Ramon Saul Sanchez took a middle path, saying the diplomatic opening can change Cuba but only if it's coupled with worldwide pressure to allow more freedom on the island.

"We're not opposed to enemies becoming friends, on the contrary, we welcome that, but when are you going to advocate for that government to be friends with its own people, to stop repressing them, to stop dividing them," he said.

A report aired on Cuban television showed the island nation's delegation arriving in Washington, D.C., over the weekend. Government officials, athletes, artists, and a reverend are part of the Cuban group who will be present to witness the formal re-establishment of relations.

"At long last, look: the old policy of refusing to dialogue gained us nothing," said Wayne Smith, the former Chief of Mission in Havana.

"There's still problems, but at least we are talking to one another," Smith said. "Trying to solve those problems that can be quickly and easily solved and then go on to the more difficult ones."

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