Cuba, the island nation 90 miles off the coast of Florida, inspires far less Ameri-can anger and fear these days than during the Cold War.

For modern Cubans, the feeling is mutual, as World-Herald readers learned from the eight-part series by reporter Matthew Hansen and photographer Ryan Soderlin. They found ordinary Cubans striving for the freedom and prosperity that flowers as time loosens the grip of dictators.

The Midlands' Cuban connections branch far beyond people working to recover property lost and academicians and tourists who want to visit. Hansen wrote about some, including Cubans who migrated to Nebraska in pursuit of better lives and the State of Nebraska's agricultural trade deals with Cuba in 2005 and 2007.

Americans can salute the small signs of tangible, positive change evident in Havana. Small businesses are popping up. Recent reforms allow ordinary Cubans to buy and sell their own homes.

Some things haven't changed. The Cuban government remains heavy-handed. Dissidents risk jail, torture, even death. The state controls key property. "Beisbol" remains a Cuban passion. Classic cars line Havana's music and noise-filled streets. Cigars, libations and food are world-class.

But after decades of stagnation, it's clear Cuba is entering a new phase. A younger generation seems more interested in tourists and the wider world than in the Castro brothers' tired revolution.

There's a new energy in Cuba — the energy of aspirations. That's something all can applaud.

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