Tampa delegation optimistic after trip to Cuba

Tampa, Florida -- While Bobby Cabellero and Maydeline Aguilar live in the Tampa Bay area they still have a lot of family back in Cuba.

Cabellero has had only one job here in the United States and that's the one he still works at at La Tropicana Cafe in Ybor City. He's a manager now, but started by washing dishes and making sandwiches at the restaurant 30 years ago. He says it's heartbreaking that there aren't more opportunities in his homeland for his friends and family.

"Life is tough there," he says.

They're encouraged to learn the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce sent a special delegation to Cuba. The goal of the group is to rebuild connections in Havana that were lost in 1959 by exploring the challenges when it comes to travel, trade, commerce and health care exchanges on the island of 12 million people.

Aguilar loves the idea of what they are trying to accomplish.

"The economy - I think will be much, much better over there and, of course, they will suffer less. It will be very good and we don't have to help so much, because we help them a lot all the time, so we wouldn't have so much pressure on us," she says.

Ronald Christaldi is a part of the delegation. Just back from Cuba with the group, he says the Tampa Bay region has a long historic tradition of trade and commerce going back to the 16th century. He says they see tremendous possibilities in Information technology, construction and infrastructure improvement -- not to mention culture.

The goal is to get a head start by building relationships in Cuba for when the times comes that the embargo is fully lifted.

"To be ready to do business in Cuba - with Cuba - importing and exporting - when the switch gets flipped. We're not here today to comment on what our government is doing - that's their business - our business is commerce," Christaldi says.

Aguilar adds, "Cuba is a beautiful place and if they could work it out - if they could fix things a little bit better - I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy Cuba."


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