Talks with Cuba a divisive issue in Birmingham


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT)- The Cuba of the 1930’s was a memorable time for Dr. Miguel Dieguez. Born on the eastern side of the island, his father was a successful physician and his mothers side raised cattle. He married his wife there on Valentine’s Day in 1959, and was leading a satisfied and happy life. That all changed, he said, when Fidel Castro took over. “We lost everything we had,” said Dr. Dieguez. “One day, my father came to the office and there were security guards waiting at the front door.” They were there to claim his fathers practice as property of the Castro regime, said Dieguez.

After five years living under the Castro system, the Dieguez family left for America. Dieguez doesn’t have any regrets about his family’s decision. “We were able to leave that ‘paradise.’ Sarcastically, you know?”

After years in America, Dr. Dieguez started Rocky Ridge Animal Clinic, which is now run by his son, Dr. Roger Dieguez. When he heard that President Obama was working on redeveloping relations with his native land, he was skeptical. “What is Castro giving the U.S.?” he asked, adding the in his eyes, all the benefits are in Cuba’s favor.

One business that would look forward to working with Cuba, is the cigar industry. For years, a “Cuban” has been thought of as the gold-standard by many people. “You always want what you cant have,” said Harris Saunders, owner of Vitola Fine Cigars in Mountain Brook. “The forbidden fruit.” He added that if the trade embargo with Cuba was lifted, there would likely be a rush of people trying cigars for the first time.

Dieguez does want to return to Cuba, but not without conditions. “I want the people living there to elect a leader chosen by them,” he said. “Hopefully something better will come out of this for Cuba and the U.S.; but, I have to see that to believe it.”

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