By David Rieff
On the surface, political life in Cuban Miami seems unchanged. Little Havana is still partly a Disney version of a displaced Cuba and partly a genuine community hub, where families who have long since left for suburbia still come for nostalgic weekend lunches. At the Versailles Restaurant, the community newspapers preaching no compromise with Castro are all that are on offer. For almost four decades, the Versailles has been an obligatory stop for Washington politicians courting the Cuban-American community, visits that, as photographs in the restaurant attest, have often involved putting on a white guayabera, the four-pocket dress shirt that often replaces a coat and tie in the Caribbean. This familiar theater of intransigence — a staple of South Florida life at least since the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, when C.I.A.-backed Cuban exiles tried to overthrow the new Communist regime — is ubiquitous. Some Cuban-Americans point hopefully to a softening in the Spanish-language, Cuba-focused radio outlets that now dominate the South Florida market. But for an outsider, what is striking is the degree to which the hard-line stance endures, since it might have been supposed that 50 years of failure to influence events on the island might have led to the conclusion that the hard-line position needed to be reconsidered. Most officeholders in Florida and, for that matter, most national politicians continue to at least pay lip service to the dream of a post-Communist Cuba, even though, early this year, Fidel Castro succeeded in seamlessly handing over power to his brother Raúl — testimony, if any was needed, to the stability of the regime.
Yet if Cuban Miami does indeed continue to dream, it is also beginning, quietly, tentatively and painfully, to adjust. Backstage, something very new is happening. Call it the Miami Spring, or Cuban-American glasnost.