The spark lit the fuse of the protests in Cuba against the communist regime and Miguel Diaz-CanelThe president responded defiantly to the cry for freedom: “The order to fight is given, to the streets the revolutionaries.” They were his words last Sunday on national television. The dictator called to defend the Revolution “at the price that is necessary.” The Castro forces of shock mobilized after the war voice of their leader and the repression began: there are already one death and dozens of detainees.

In a very different environment, on the other side of the Atlantic, in Castropol, Asturias, Díaz-Canel’s distant relatives contemplate with disappointment the scenes that arrive from their beloved Cuba: “We had the hope that with his coming to power things would change, that he would not follow the path of the Castros, but it has already been seen that he would not “, He says Maria Josefa Diaz-Canel in his Indian house in this small town of 3,470 inhabitants that overlooks the Ría del Eo, the natural border between Asturias and Galicia.

That is where he receives THE SPANISH to tell the story of a family saga that, from an Asturian house, reached the top of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). Now it is in the trigger before the clamor of a tired people after more than 60 years of dictatorship.

The Díaz-Canel manor house in the countryside, in Castropol, Asturias.


In 2019, when Díaz-Canel was appointed president, María Josefa carried her last name in a mixture of pride and joy. He came to write to his distant cousin to greet him, although he never replied. The mayor of Castropol at that time even extended an invitation for me to visit them, and for that to put the town in the spotlight. The visit did not take place either. Now, amid the events that the island is going through, things have radically changed.

“We are very oblivious to that, it’s a shame. Cuba should open up to democracy. It cannot be that people eat water and sugar, if they have sugar, “he says. Ovidio Vila, husband of María Josefa. The Spanish family of the Cuban president assures that it has nothing to do with the communist ideology of the island regime. “Nobody agrees with his ideology, unless we know it,” continues Ovidio.

He, like the Díaz-Canels and the majority of Castropolenses -in Havana There is a Home of Castropol- and countrymen from the area, lived in Cuba. He did it from the ages of three to 11, under the mandate of Fidel. “In Spain there was also a dictatorship, with Franco, but it cannot be compared. We had something to eat here, not there. 60 years have passed and nothing has changed, everything has remained as it was, and it has even gotten worse ”, explains Ovidio.

Wealthy family

Just 200 meters from Castropol, on a path that leads to fields and plantations, a robust stone house stands out from the other farms. Outside it has a large granary -the characteristic barn of rural properties in this part of Spain-. The structure shows that the family that had it built had more provisions than the rest. That, centuries ago, was a symbol of their economic well-being. The house is inhabited Maria Juana Diaz Diaz and her husband Marcelo.

María Juana is the granddaughter of Francisco Díaz-Canel. His grandfather was the brother of the grandfather of the current president of Cuba. She is his second cousin. “They had several cows and some fields. They were a strong family of ranchers for that time, ”says María Juana from the door of the family home. When asked about the family tree, she babbles. “We are many,” he says. What is clear is that his surname is related to the Cuban dictatorship, he does not like it. “That is wrong,” he says.

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The first of the family to arrive at this house was Juan Diaz-Canel. He did it coming from the barriers. Got married with Gertrudis Sayol and they had four children. One of them, Francisco, already settled in Castropol, had nine more children. Of them, the five men, Francisco, Ramón, José María, Jesús and Abelardo emigrated to Cuba in the second half of the 19th century, when the island was still a Spanish colony.

Image of the La Perla furniture factory in Havana, founded by the Díaz-Canel brothers, including the current president's great-grandfather.

Image of the La Perla furniture factory in Havana, founded by the Díaz-Canel brothers, including the current president’s great-grandfather.


They came from a relatively wealthy family and did not travel to make a living, but to make a fortune. They made it. The brothers specialized in cabinetmaking and founded the La Perla furniture factory. It was located at number 103 on Galiano Street in Havana. Ovidio, in fact, explains to this newspaper that they could be carpenters already in Castropol, where there is a great tradition.

“They were very handy and they were good at it,” says María Josefa’s husband. According to him, the brothers opened a second furniture store in the Cuban capital. From that factory, for example, are the furniture over 100 years old that decorates the living room of María Josefa and Ovidio in their house in the center of Castropol.

The Díaz-Canel brothers they returned with their pockets full to the town at the beginning of the 20th century. In the municipality, everyone thought that there was no one of the family left in Cuba until, in 2012, the current president Miguel Díaz-Canel was appointed Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Castro regime.

According to Ovidio, who has most investigated the history of the family together with María Josefa, one of the five brothers, Ramón, stayed in Havana at the head of the furniture factory. It also took over the representation of the French piano brand Pleyel et Cie. on the island, six of whom arrived by boat in Castropol. One of them, in fact, fell into the estuary while they were disembarking it, although it was finally recovered.

Thus, Ramón’s fortune continued to increase, he lived in a noble house in Havana and had a plantation estate in the province of Villa Clara. Ramón had several children. One of them was the father of Miguel, who worked as a mechanical turner and married Aída Bermúdez, teacher. From that marriage, another Miguel was born on April 20, 1960, on the “Díaz-Canel” farm in the municipality of Placetas (Villa Clara), the current president. It came to the world a year after the triumph of the Revolution.

Francisco, one of the brothers of the Cuban president’s grandfather, later returned to Castropol to the family’s manor house where his granddaughter María Juana lives today, whose last name “Canel” was taken away by his father to stay in Díaz. Her great-grandfather’s brothers had already been back in town for a long time and with the money they made in Cuba they had the Indian house built in the center where María Josefa and Ovidio currently live.

Antonio Díaz-Canel, distant cousin of the president of Cuba, at the entrance of his Indian house in Castropol, built by his ancestors.

Antonio Díaz-Canel, distant cousin of the president of Cuba, at the entrance of his Indian house in Castropol, built by his ancestors.


A few streets up, in another marvelous Indian building from the time, the initials “A” and “C” are read on the entrance gate, for “Antonio Canel”, Lives Antonio Díaz-Canel, another of the relatives, brother of María Josefa. Ramón, also the brother of Antonio and María Josefa, also has a property in the town.

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Cousins ​​in Spain

Ramón currently lives in Ferrol and Antonio does the same in Madrid. The latter made a career as an industrial engineer and his son Jose Maria it is still linked to Cuba. In fact, it is dedicated to the export and sale of radars for airports and maintains contact with one of the sisters of the communist president. It is the closest link that this branch of the family has with the current president.

Two direct cousins ​​of Miguel Díaz-Canel currently reside in Santander and others in Valencia, where they are dedicated to the export of wine, with Cuba as one of its main markets. On Barcelona another cousin lives, Osvaldo, a doctor by profession trained on the island. All of them are Cubans who, over the years, decided to return to the land of their ancestors.

His cousin, President Miguel, however, began to serve in the Communist Party early on. He graduated in Civil Engineering from the Central University of the Villas Marta Abreu in 1982. Later, he did his military service until 1985, the year in which he began working as a university professor and began as a professional cadre of the Union of Young Communists.

He later participated in an “internationalist” mission in Nicaragua. In 1989 he became a member of the PCC committee in Villa Clara. In 1991 he entered the Central Committee of the Party and, thus, successively until in 2009 he became Minister of Education for Raúl Castro. Later he was Vice President of the Councils of State of Ministers and, in 2019, successor of the brothers as leader of the regime and the PCC.

As the brothers María Josefa, Ramón and Antonio explain to this newspaper, the Cuban president has never visited the town, as he did. Fidel Castro with the Galician municipality of his father, Lancara. The leader of the Revolution was in Galicia on one occasion in 1992 for 48 hours in which he ate octopus, played dominoes and expressed his pride in his origins.

Francisco Díaz-Canel, brother of the communist president's grandfather, back in Asturias with his family in front of the family house.

Francisco Díaz-Canel, brother of the communist president’s grandfather, back in Asturias with his family in front of the family house.


On September 25, 2018, Díaz-Canel and the Spanish President Pedro Sanchez met at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Cuban told Sánchez that he had an Asturian family, from Castropol. Sánchez replied that he would find his relatives and bring them with him on what would be the first official trip for a Spanish president in more than 30 years. The visit occurred a month later, but the relatives did not travel with Sánchez or meet the most famous member of his family.

The tune of that moment is now in suspension, with a Sánchez who, for the moment, has only had ambiguous and evasive statements towards the regime led by his counterpart Díaz-Canel. Castropol’s most illustrious distant neighbor is just that, a distant neighbor that no longer has anything to do with what was once the town’s proudest family saga. They hoped that his last name was the beginning of change in post-Castro Cuba. His aspirations were totally disappointed.

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