HAVANA — The business ideas have ranged from a bikini franchise to a peanut farm, restaurants, and design firms for software and home interiors. But even more novel than the pitches — in a country where entrepreneurship used to be illegal — is the financial muscle behind them: Cuban-Americans whose families lost their previous ventures to Cuba’s Communist government.
“It’s all about people not losing hope and seeing that starting a business is a way to improve their lives,” said Eduardo Mestre, 65, a Wall Street banker who returned to Cuba last year for the first time since 1960 to see the start-up training he helps finance. “Emotionally, it’s very hard not to connect with people who have all this ambition in a place where maintaining hope is very hard to do.”
Many of the first Cubans to leave after Fidel Castro took over are beginning to come back, reuniting with the island they left in bitterness and anger, overcoming decades of heated opposition to its leaders, and partnering with Cubans in direct, new ways.
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