Even Aguilera has had family flee the country. Twenty years ago, he watched several family members immigrate to Spain and then America to escape the economic turmoil that plagued Cuba at the time.
"There was a time in the '90s when a lot of Cubans left for the United States," Aguilera said. "It divided a lot of families. It caused a lot of suffering for many Cubans."
Today, Aguilera hopes that Cuba has begun to head down a better path.
"Cuba has gone through a lot of processes, changes," he said. "Times can change for the nation."
Capitalism has steadily made inroads through the island nation since Raul Castro assumed power as president two years ago and initiated several radical reforms that have partially rolled back decades of communist policy.
Under those reforms, Cubans can now run private businesses. They can also own cars and some private property.
President Obama has also relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba and offered humanitarian aid to the island nation. New visa requirements have opened the door for more Cubans -- including Aguilera -- to travel to the United States.
Aguilera wants to continue that relationship. He hopes that America and Cuba can one day forge a strong friendship that rises above petty international struggles.
"There are many Cubans who love America, and many people in the United States that love Cuba," Aguilera said. "I hope that one day there will be a real bridge of friendship, without fear of immigration and without fear of economic difficulties."
Reach Laura Reston at laura.res...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.