It's taken nearly 90 years; the leader of the free world and one of the last communist leaders sat together Monday to discuss improving U.S./Cuban relations. There have been many differences between the two nations for several decades, prompting some Cubans to take solace in the United States, to create a better life for themselves and their families.
Channel 3 Eyewitness News talks with one "Chattanoogan" who has made a big impact on this community after such a long journey, many years ago.
Almost four years to the day Axel Arzola became a permanent resident of the United States. It was a long journey. But he and his wife crossed the Canadian border ready to start a new life. Now with the changing US Cuba relationships, he is hoping family back at home will live better lives-- as well.
“He said "Welcome to America!" They all started laughing, gave us a hug, food and water to help us out,” said Axel Arzola, a Cuban refugee. For 22 years Axel Arzola lived in Havana Cuba. Coming to America was always one of his dreams. “I was always interested in coming to the US. I learned English on my own.”
In 2012 he was invited to a film festival in Canada. That’s when he and his wife decided they needed to get to America. They walked over 30 miles to the border and freedom. “We went outside and started walking. Whatever it takes we are going to make out way to the US.”
Thanks to the American Adjustment Act they were able to enter the country legally as refugees. “The US has a special set of laws for Cubans that allows people who make it somehow to the US, they come in and have a shot at the American Dream.”
Arzola is hoping President Obama’s historic trip to the island nation will mark change for his family who still lives there. “You can be your own man, do your own thing, go out on your own.” But he knows change won't happen overnight. “Some people are in the same place. It looks like it’s changing a lot. But day to day it is not changing.”
His hope is one day the family he left behind will come to America and share the same freedom while living the American dream. “I am free to travel, go places, dream, do things better. I can pursue my career in film. I'm going to win that Oscar.”
Axel Arzola hopes to become a US citizen next year. Plans are to get his parents and brothers to the United States as soon as possible.