Cell Phone From Havana: Not a Dry Eye in Town

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"The streets were empty as all of Havana crowded around TV sets, and I don't know if there was a dry eye in the city. Usually there's a soap opera on TV at that time, and everybody complains when it's not shown — but even though they're just showing the footage of Elian's return over and over, people are still glued to their sets. Even the correspondents at the airport were crying like children at the overwhelming display of emotion by Elian's great-grandfather and his grandparents as they welcomed him home.

"Fidel Castro had promised not to make Elian's return a political spectacle, and he abided by that promise. He didn't even go to the airport himself, although [national assembly speaker] Ricardo Alarcon, who'd been Juan Miguel's consultant, was there. The only ceremonial welcome came from Elian's classmates, who were brought to the airport. Later he met with some of them at an undisclosed location. They're being very careful about how to reintegrate Elian. All the posters bearing his image have been taken down, so that he won't see his face on the walls as he drives around town.

"He and his family will move to a large house that's been turned into a school where he and his parents, as well as up to 14 classmates, can be accommodated along with their parents and their teacher.... The authorities don't want him to miss a school year; they want him to enter second grade in September. So he'll spend the next three weeks staying at this special boarding school with his parents, and then they'll take a vacation. Then it's back to school on September 1.

"I went out onto the streets an hour or two after Elian's return, and the people I managed to find were very emotional. 'It was time,' they said. 'Justice has been done. A child needs to be with his parents, and his grandparents are here. He had no business being in a country without his real family.' Juan Miguel's comments at the airport about his hopes for friendship between Cuba and the U.S. were broadcast here, and they were well-received because that's a common sentiment. People here love Americans. If you go to the 'hot corner' to talk about baseball, they'll talk about the latest plays of American teams. When the World Series is on, there's pandemonium in Havana."