Zavalla man with ties to Cuba shares thoughts of US, Cuban relations

Zavalla man with ties to Cuba shares thoughts of US, Cuban relations

ZAVALLA, TX (KTRE) - President Barack Obama spent his Tuesday wrapping up his historic trip to Cuba. Obama became the first president since 1959 to visit the communist country as the neighbor to the south continues to work with the U.S. to improve relationships between the two.

"I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas," Obama said. "In many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers that have been estranged for many years even as we share the same blood."

While Obama was in Cuba trying to improve relationships with the one-time Cold War enemy, Carlos Guzman sat exiled in Zavalla, cautiously optimistic that changes can come to his homeland.

"I talked to my mom this morning [in Beaumont]," Guzman said. "She is totally against this. I am in the middle. You got to forgive, and you got to move forward. We know it is better for the country and better for the people down there. The younger people are probably more for it, and the older people are going to be against it."

Guzman was only a little boy when his family fled the island country 51 years ago. The family ended up in Beaumont. Guzman found his way to the Pineywoods and a job with Brookshire brothers before venturing out on his own. Guzman describes the country he remembers as heaven on earth but acknowledged that over half a century of communist rule has hurt that image.

"They are not getting the food, the nutrition, the medicine they need. It's terrible," Guzman said. "They do not have any freedom. They have no religious liberty."

Guzman believes as long as the Castro family is in power anything Obama proposes will be just ideas and not policy.

"The people that are going to benefit in the country are the government and not the everyday working people," Guzman said. "It won't change until they are gone."

Guzman now owns several businesses in the Zavalla area. He said the American Dream he was told about as a kid is true.

"I can go down the street and buy anything that I have the money to afford," Guzman said. "In this country, you can be anything you want to be if you want to be  You want to be an attorney, you want to be a doctor, you want to be a garbage picker-upper."

Despite his optimism, Guzman is confident the Cuba he once loved will only live in his memories.

"I would love to see the countryside," Guzman said. "It is a beautiful country, but I don't think I would go back."

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