By Andrea Lucia

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DALLAS (CBSDFW) –  As President Obama emerged from Air Force One in Cuba, Ana Guerrero watched in awe.
“I’m excited. I’m absolutely excited,” she said.

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The owner of the Latin Pig Cuban restaurant in Plano grew up hearing her father’s stories of his native Havana. “He longed to go back,” she said.

Obama is the first president to visit the communist country since Calvin Coolidge in the 1920’s.

Guerrero has high hopes for improving relations between the US and Cuba.“To see Cuba open up to the world again and flourish as a nation,” she said.  “If Americans can open up businesses there, the country is going to flourish.”

Ernesto Velez, owner of the Havana Café in Dallas, escaped Cuba’s communist regime when he was 23. “I grew up with the revolution, so I know how revolution functions. It’s the best thing to open it up and let people know that the Americans are not the worst enemy.”

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He’s made several visits back over the last few years and seen change slowly taking place. “Now people are talking. They’re saying, “Hey, this is not the way we want to live. We want a democracy.” Velez knows not all Cubans are convinced. “The old thinking… they’re not optimistic. They don’t have hope.”

He also doesn’t expect human rights issues to disappear anytime soon, but he believes the president’s visit is a step toward progress. “I want to see a dialogue between these two countries,” he said.

President Obama is scheduled to meet with Cuban leader, Raul Castro, tomorrow. Tuesday, he plans to meet with dissidents, critical of the Cuban government.

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