St. Pete mayor continues building bonds during visits to Cuba

It's been a long-time dream for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to foster a relationship with Cuba, and after his recent trip last week, his efforts to build those ties have only grown stronger.

"I've worked very hard to try and build a relationship with some of the Cuban officials. We, at one time, certainly were hoping that we might be the home of a Cuban consulate here in St. Petersburg," said Mayor Kriseman.

But due to increased regulations handed down from the White House over the past few years, that dream seems less likely to become a reality, at least for now.

"I still remain hopeful," said Kriseman. "That's why it's important to keep the relationship going and the dialogue going."

This time, his brief trip to Havana differed greatly from his trip back in 2016, which FOX 13 was there to capture.

"Looking at how busy it was this time, versus how it's been in the past, clearly there's been an impact," said the mayor.

However, what Mayor Kriseman experienced on his recent trip was still a reminder of why he backed the idea for a consulate in the first place.

"One of the things that I've always felt that St. Pete shared in common with the City of Havana was arts and culture. From the murals to the performers that performed, the dancers, the singers."

With strong ties to the Tampa Bay Area, Kriseman still believes St. Pete could be the perfect spot for a Cuban Consulate to call home.

"The first people to leave Cuban soil and land in the U.S. landed in St. Petersburg."

But for now, the mayor is focused on achieving what is currently possible.

"I'm going to continue to reach the olive branch across the water to the Cuban officials," said Kriseman. "We're going to try to continue to see if we can have cultural exchanges."