Paul Ryan Walks on Freedom Road

You have to do it…you have to come to Little Havana if you are a Republican trying to win the White House.

Reagan did it.

Reagan in Little Havana

Bush did it.


McCain did it.


Even some wannabes did it.

thompson 2008Bachmann in Miami

This cycle is no exception.

Mitt’s been here already.

Romney El Palacio

And today, Paul Ryan came seeking our support, and letting us know about how he’s changed on some issues near and dear to nuestra gente.

MIAMI — On a morning intended to reassure hard-line anti-Castro voters, who are a powerful force in South Florida Republican politics, Representative Paul D. Ryan made a pilgrimage to a restaurant here at the heart of the Cuban exile community in Little Havana. Part of the reason: to criticize what he called President Obama’s “appeasement” of the Cuban government.

But the visit was also intended to do some fence-mending of his own: as a young congressman from a largely rural Wisconsin district, Mr. Ryan, now Mitt Romney’s 42-year-old vice-presidential running mate, supported ending the trade embargo with Cuba, an unpopular sentiment among many Republicans and Cuban exiles in this part of Florida, one of the most crucial swing states in the general election.

“If we think engagement works well with China, well, it ought to work well with Cuba,” Mr. Ryan had said a decade ago in an interview with The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The embargo doesn’t work. It is a failed policy,” he said, adding that while many Cuban-Americans were passionate in their support of the embargo, “I just don’t agree with them and never have.”

And so on Saturday morning, Mr. Ryan appeared alongside a powerhouse lineup of Florida Republicans including former Gov. Jeb Bush at the restaurant Versailles, long famous as a gathering place for the anti-Castro movement.

There, in front of a cheering crowd and with particularly intense endorsement from former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mr. Ryan made the case that his understanding of Cuba had evolved under long tutelage from Republican House members from South Florida, including Mr. Diaz-Balart and his younger brother Mario, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, now the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, who have also endorsed him.

In a separate local television interview, Mr. Ryan also explained how he had come to change his mind and since 2007 has supported the embargo.

“You learn from friendships,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd at Versailles, explaining that his Florida friends in Congress had shown him “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”

Then, he had a cafecito.

Ryan Versailles

I go to Versailles a lot, it’s like Communion to me.

I eat a pastelito de guayaba, and drink a cup of café, the body and the blood of a homeland that’s fading from my memory, and I am renewed.

That which was dead, rises again in me, and I remember just who I am.

Our homeland may have been lost, but we never lost ourselves.

I think tomorrow may be a good Versailles sort of a day.