It's a country just 90 miles from the tip of Florida, but to many with close ties to Cuba, it feels like worlds away.
In the wake of President Barack Obama's announcement to make amends with its government, locals react to the future.
One Rockford man once ran freely through parks in Cuba. Now, simple communication like calls and even letters to his family are monitored.
"They lived by the baseball stadium and I remember hearing the games at night," Rich Muniz said.
Back in Havana, Cuba in the late 1950's, the then 4-year-old Rick Muniz was on another trip to see his grandparents.
He hasn't been back since.
But he says, the look and feel of the country hasn't changed.
Under trade restrictions, what once was a vibrant and cutting edge economy, has now fallen behind.
"You can't paint what you want to paint, you can't write the lyrics you want to write," Muniz said.
That's not the life Muniz remembers, so news of this potentially better relationship gives him hope.
"Once you open relations with these countries, things change. Look at Vietnam, China, the Soviet Union," Muniz said.
The hope, however, is overshadowed by a harsh reality: there is still a lot of baggage from 50 years of solidarity, years of being closed off prompted many to escape the country.
What they once called home, will no longer be there.
"I mean if we really open relations and the regime falls people are going to want their property back. It's going to be an enormous legal problem," Muniz said.
Muniz's mother doesn't plan to move back, but he still has other family living there.
He hopes life, with these changes, will become more care-free, like it once was.
That's the Cuba he want's to show his own kids.
"I want to walk where my dad once walked with them," Muniz.
Many changes in Washington could make it less likely that the cuban economic embargo will happen.
A number of Republicans oppose the move and congress has to approve it before it moves forward.