HAVANA (WSVN) — The Cuban woman who wrote President Barack Obama a letter inviting him to her Havana home during his visit to the island nation said she hopes he can take her up on the offer.
Ileana Yarza made headlines when she revealed the commander in chief replied to her missive, in which she wrote, "There are not many Cubans so eager as I to meet you in person." Obama’s letter made its way to the resident, who is in her 70s, on Thursday.
Yarza showed 7News the cup she plans to use to serve her pen pal some freshly brewed café cubano. "And if he likes less coffee because it’s too dark, I’m going to use this," she said as she grabbed and held up a slightly larger cup.
Yarza is aware Obama has a hectic schedule once he sets foot on the island, Sunday. His trip marks the first visit to Cuba by a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.
Yarza has written five letters to Obama over the last seven years, starting at the time when he was a presidential candidate. More letters followed after he won in 2008 and 2012. In them, Yarza asked Obama to lift the Cuban embargo and offered to make him coffee.
Yarza said Obama’s reply came as a wonderful surprise. "I opened the door, and they gave it and a photo of my letter, of Obama’s letter, and also the photo of Obama signing my letter," she said.
"The letter arrived after people showed [the photos]," she continued. "When the letter arrived, I had been interviewed by at least five channels."
Yarza said she’s thrilled the president took the time to respond. "The president, Barack Obama, sent me a letter," she said.
She also read the letter aloud for 7News’ cameras. "I hope this note — which will reach you by way of the first direct mail flight between the United States and Cuba in over 50 years — serves as a reminder of a bright new chapter in the relationship between our two nations," she said. "I am looking forward to visiting Havana to foster this relationship and highlight our shared values — and, hopefully, I will have time to enjoy a cup of Cuban coffee."
Yarza stayed in her home country after fighting for the Cuban revolution, and she said critics on both sides aren’t considering the most important issue. "I’m not talking about the people in Miami or whatever. I’m talking about the embargo and the Cuban people," she said. "That’s exactly why I fought this. The embargo has been a punishment to Cuba."
So, if Barack and Michelle Obama don’t have the time to stop for Cuban java at her humble abode, Yarza said, she’ll wait if she has to. "I will understand if he doesn’t come, but believe me, I will find him and I will meet him," she said.
Yarza said she has family in Miami, and although they don’t always share the same views, she was able to mail her letters to the president during visits to the U.S.
As for the embargo, only Congress has the authority to lift it.