Cuba is more than a blue sea

Before July 11th

Yesterday’s dinner ended up orbiting very common themes among most Cubans who emigrate to any part of the world: the island’s economic situation, the absurd measures imposed by the government, the ease of the media to misrepresent the real situation in the streets, among many other disappointments. As I finished my second glass of wine, I asked the new friend who was sitting on the patio: do you really think that there will be a change in our country? He didn’t know what to answer and stayed silent for some minutes. After his pause, I explained my hopeful vision, which is possibly a consequence of my little experience, or lack of financial knowledge. Despite this, I told him: Cuba has begun to wake up! His face was filled with a quiet, almost old doubt. My mother’s gaze became doubtful as well, but I continued my argument about the brutal repression performed by the authorities towards Cuba’s civil society (artists, workers, elderly, women, men, black, all). They were surprised to hear that during the month of April 203 protests were held in Cuba for the first time, of which 57% ended up in police abuse. Protests may sound very ordinary and trendy in this modern world of the 21st century, but Cubans pay really high prices for that practice. As in the case of Luis Robles, a young male from Havana who has been in jail for seven months just for holding a sign in the street asking to free a Cuban rapper named Denis Solis. The conversation went on and we started commenting on the reaction of the Cuban government before the resolution on the violation of human rights that was approved by the European Parliament this past June 8th. Even though there were 386 votes in favor, the Cuban government/press, denied the facts. It is worth mentioning that anything happening in Cuba, either protest, economic crisis, or any other matter, the government will cynically blame on the United States, and this time was not an exception. My friend said it has been the government’s number one strategy to maintain power over the years, but there are not as many people believing in the news anymore. A little after I left Cuba six years ago, the Internet arrived, and ever since Facebook has been the alternative news source of the population. The sun had already set and there was almost no light on the patio. The conversation became a little more sentimental. We shared memories, common difficulties, our journey to get here, the families left behind, and of course a bit of music. My mom doesn’t talk a lot about these topics. She grew up learning how to keep silent, even when it hurt.

Luis Robles holding a sign

My First Protest

The past year has been covered in uncertainties, losses, protests, and awakenings worldwide. Historical moments have occurred, and continue to occur within Cuban’s civil society, in response to the current global crisis, and also to the internal crisis that the country has suffered for a little more than six decades. In November of last year, peaceful protests were unleashed in different nations to support young people who yearn for a change in that country, in which the political police repress anyone who does not agree with the ideas imposed by the government since 1959. On November 30, I joined a protest for the first time. That morning I woke up to prepare my poster and after thinking several times about the message I wanted to sustain, I finally decided that it was going to be: “NO MORE REPRESSION IN CUBA”. The protest took place in front of the headquarter of the Permanent Mission of Cuba in NYC. A small group of Cubans of various ages gathered that day calling for the freedom of political prisoners and the end to the violation of rights in our country of origin. Despite the fear that my mother felt, given that she was born in a place where the word protest was not even a possibility, I was determined and went there with the satisfaction that I was contributing to the change in the reality of those artists, and my friends, who live without freedoms.

Protest in Lexington Ave NYC

July 11th

Here I explain some of the reasons for my insistence on writing about Cuba. I will share data that I consider important for understanding the current situation on the island and to fully understand the meaning of this story.

Cuba has been under a dictatorship for more than six decades. A dictatorship based on an outdated ideology (which they call communism/socialism) and misrule clinging to it. Its top repressors, trained by Fidel Castro, have been selling the world the image of a perfect socialist country, where education and free health care are a tremendous pride. Here I leave you images of Cuban hospitals and an article that summarizes the reality of the so-called “international missions”.

Another important fact: Cuba is an agricultural country where there is no food. The country’s shameful “leaders” sell crumbs to the people in US dollars, after having sent people to jail for the possession of this currency in the past. People are hungry, and even more so, those who do not have any of their relatives abroad to help them financially.

For these reasons and many other painful situations, the people took to the streets on July 11. For those of you who don’t know, in Cuba, it is a crime to be a dissident, and any type of demonstration of one’s thoughts is condemned. Hence the importance of everything that happened from that day on. Never, in 62 years, had a massive protest occurred in Cuba, where an entire poor country took to the streets shouting the word FREEDOM in unison.

Cuban Protests July 11th

Patria y Vida

The week of July 11th in my personal case was even more special because I met a great friend. In the midst of many mixed feelings of Cubans living on this side of history, the videos of people being attacked by the police, the screams, tears, sweat, and confusion; and in the midst of the cries of Homeland and Life, (the new slogan that counteracts the historic Homeland or Death of the Cuban dictatorship) there I met Medina. He was in Union Square with a megaphone in hand, drawing our strong thoughts with his words and shouting phrases that all of us present were repeating with great force. I can still remember the desperation in his voice screaming Libertad (Freedom).

A couple of weeks ago, I finally went to his studio to interview him. Upon arriving at Cifarra’s headquarters, a project born during the lockdown, I was surprised by the kindness, rarely found during these days, with which they received me. Medina currently directs, produces, and delivers his person to anyone who gets close to him and connects with his ideas. In this place, despite the August heat, one breathes fresh air, freedom, and the desire to express everything that passes through one’s mind, with honesty and no filters.

The extensive conversation we had diverted into areas that were not on my list of questions, and it fell back into the oddity of having lived a period in life that had allowed us to think so much about ourselves. To build a different reality over the basis of the uncertainty that has accompanied us and still accompanies us sometimes has a great outcome.

The Homeland gave me a friend

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