The Cubans who matter, as the United States moves toward diplomatic normalization:

President Raul Castro, 83


Cuban President Raul Castro. (Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Since taking over after his brother fell ill in 2006, he has toned down the speeches and dialed back the hostility. He has launched a few careful economic reforms, though critics say they are cosmetic changes designed to preserve an authoritarian grip on power.

Fidel Castro, 88


Former Cuban president Fidel Castro (Adalberto Roque)

One of the last remaining major figures of the Cold War, the former president has all but disappeared from public life. U.S. officials said he played no role in the negotiations with President Obama. He was leader of Cuba from the 1959 communist takeover until ill health forced his retirement nearly a half century later.

Miguel Diaz-Canel, 54


Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel (right) with Minister of Culture Julian Gonzalez (Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Vice president of the Council of Ministers, he is a former engineer who rose through the ranks of the party. Now heir apparent, he remains largely a question mark and very much in the shadow of the Castros and the military leaders who fought alongside the brothers in the 1950s.

Bruno Rodriguez, 56


Cuba's foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez (left), with Raul Castro (Enrique De La Osa/Reuters)

Foreign minister since 2009, he had earlier served for eight years as Cuba’s representative to the United Nations. He will play a key role in the development of relations between Washington and Havana.

Yoani Sanchez, 39


Cuban blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sanchez. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Blogger known for incisive criticism and elegant literary style, she has emerged as Castro’s sharpest thorn in recent years. She started a new online newspaper, 14ymedio, that the Cuban government blocks on the island.