Cuba-Americans in Philadelphia react to Obama's visit

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
VIDEO: Local reaction to Obama's visit to Cuba
Local reaction to President Obama's visit to Cuba.

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Cuba-Americans in Philadelphia were reacting to the historic visit of President Barack Obama.

At Cuba Libre in Old City Monday night, people were celebrating the visit, seeing it as opening the door to normalized relations.

"I think it's a great thing. I just got back from Cuba a few weeks ago and I think the people down there are really happy and excited for the changes coming," Timothy Ericson of Advanced Sports International.

Over some exotic Cuban dishes, the owners of the Fuji Bicycle brand were celebrating a new business venture in Cuba where former Mayor Michael Nutter and his wife Lisa are acting as the company's ambassadors.

"Fuji just entered into a five year sponsorship with the Cuban National Cycling Federation," Advanced Sports International CEO Pat Cunnane said.

Business is beginning to flow with the Cuban nation once again after half a century.

It's something Cuban-American and Doylestown business man George Fernandez has been pushing fervently for, this after his family fled Cuba decades ago.

"For me personally, as a Cuban born Cuban-American, it is truly an emotional and happy moment," Fernandez said.

Former city managing director Richard Negrin, a Cuban American, applauds the progress the Cuban government is making in terms of human rights.

"Today, the president successfully got Raul Castro to hold a press conference and take questions from the free press, that hasn't happen, I'm not sure ever," Negrin said.

For Negrin, this is deeply personal. After his parents fled Cuba, his father went back to negotiate with Fidel Castro for the release of 3,000 political prisoners. He succeeded.

But at the tender age of 13, he would see his father gun down by a radical anti-Castro group.

Looking back now, does he think it was worth it? He believes so.

"He believed in bringing people together and that was something for him that was worth it," Negrin said.

Most of all, Negrin and Fernandez say it's about the people of Cuba because after 50 years of suffering during the embargo, they can finally begin to live with dignity.