Some of the old men at Miami's Cafe Versailles won't forgive — and certainly can't forget.
Their generation is most skeptical of the reopening of U.S. relations with Cuba, in contrast with younger waves of Cuban immigrants who have closer ties to the homeland and are far more inclined to welcome the historic thaw.
Gonzalo Lopez, 74, is from that original wave of exiles.
He ran his family's hardware store until it was confiscated by the revolution. It was the era of nationalization-at-gunpoint. Ask him now about Barack Obama reopening relations with Cuba, and he catapults into a vitriolic soliloquy against the U.S. president that lands on a stern judgment: "This guy (Obama) is a communist."
Lopez fled Cuba in 1962 and built a successful life in the U.S. He worked as a bartender while studying engineering, helped design a U.S. navy complex, and eventually built a company with 15 employees.
He has no plans for a return visit to his homeland.
"What for — to look at misery? When the last communist leaves Cuba, I'll go back," he said.
"Cuba is nothing now. Cuba is a dump.... They destroyed everything."
In his view, the same revolutionaries who used to sing "Yankee Go Home" are now just desperate for a lifeline from Yankee dollars. He believes new commercial activity on the island will only benefit the regime, help it buy more weapons, and use those weapons to solidify its grasp on power.
Cafe Versailles is famous for opinions like these.
Journalists have flocked here for years. It's a reliable source of political discussion as potent as its coffee, and consistently produces the kind of colourful soundbites that'll perk up a TV piece like a good caffeine kick.
So media crews set up camp outside when Castro got sick in 2006; when child refugee Elian Gonzalez got deported; and most recently when U.S.-Cuba ties were reopened and protesters held up signs for the cameras such as, "Obama You Surrendered to the Castro Terrorist."
Some younger Cuban expats roll their eyes at the old routine.
To capture the real mood in the community, they say, you need to venture away from the classic hangouts in Little Havana and out into suburbs like Hialeah, where more recent Cuban immigration is concentrated.
Public-opinion polls certainly point to a generational divide.
Researchers at Florida International University have been polling on the issue for two decades, and see a clear trend: the first wave of Cuban exiles from the 1959-64 period are the staunchest opponents of reopening relations, while the post-1995 refugees support reopening diplomatic ties by an 80-20 margin.
That demographic shift has made all the political difference, says one proponent of closer ties.
It used to be that no political party would touch the Cuba issue for fear of losing elections in Florida, says Ricardo Herrero. Now there's an actual debate — with Republicans and their base of older, anti-Castro voters on one side, against Democrats on the side of younger voters who want change.
"It's no longer the case where neither party can touch the issue," says Herrero, whose group Cuba Now advised the White House on its new policy.
You don't have to venture far from the coffee stand at Versailles to hear drastically different opinions — from more recent Cuban refugees who've lived drastically different lives from Lopez's.
Rodrigo De La Luz used to work in a clothing store in Cuba, and studied film-making. He's now a painter, sculptor and writer. Last week, he was selling books on the sidewalk across the street from Cafe Versailles.
He never had a chance to own a business in Cuba. He grew up under communism as the son of a political prisoner, which he said left him marked from a young age, and excluded from coveted jobs.
De La Luz said he made a dozen attempts to escape in the 1990s, an especially difficult time on the island. He and others pooled their money together to buy food, and set off in a rickety fishing boat.
They finally settled on a successful plan: leave on Valentine's Day, a big national holiday in Cuba. They correctly surmised that federal agents guarding the coastline might have their normal alertness loosened by liquor. Four days later, on Feb. 18, 1998, they touched the Florida Keys.
He said it's time for a new approach — even if that means dealing with the Castros.
"If I had to sit down and negotiate with two criminals so they might free a country from misery, I'd sit down with them," De La Luz said.
"And if I had to treat them like two gentlemen even if they aren't, I would. For the reason of helping people eat. Because, in any case, how much time do they have left?"
That opinion was echoed by almost everyone interviewed by The Canadian Press in Miami. Another was Francisco Villa, a 55-year-old mechanic who left in 1996.
Villa expressed some sympathy for the hardliners.
"They have their pain and I understand," he said. "They were political prisoners. Their families were shot... You need to respect people's pain. "But nothing has changed in Cuba in 55 years. And if this is going to benefit the people, then bring on these new relations."
Don't expect to persuade the elderly gentleman at the cafe.
Lopez says the younger people have no idea. They have no comcept of what Cuba was like before it was ruined by those "common criminals," he says, referring to the revolutionaries.
"You talk to them about life in Cuba (before), they don't believe you," he sighed.
"The young people — they're brainwashed."Suggest a correction