by Lucy Gonzalez
I heard the chants getting louder and louder – and then I caught sight of the signs.
Patria y Vida! Patriotism and Life!
Red, white and blue Cuban flags flew high in the air. They were held tightly by generations of Cubans and Americans. As I made my way toward the roaring chants, I saw cars with #SOSCUBA signs, banners and flags. We bought hand-held Cuban banderas to show our support and made our way through the chanting crowd.
A large group of people gathered in front of the Cuban restaurant, Versailles. I felt overwhelmed with emotion. Hundreds of people stood on the sidewalks of Little Havana in support of the Cuban people. In this show of solidarity, there were smiles and tears. Some screamed against the regime, and there were those who powerfully stood tall and held up an L (for Libertad) with their hand.
Around us, Gente de Zona’s recent song Patria y Vida blared from speakers, and Cuban Americans of all ages stood on the street and began to sing. I took it all in.
Miami is a tightly connected community, and on this occasion, it was no different. As we stood in solidarity, we all had the same intention: to raise awareness to the world at large about the horrifying dilemma currently faced by millions of Cubans who are struggling under the mistreatment of the Cuban government.
Later in the car, my sister told me she overheard two young men having a conversation about the protest and how they came to show their support, despite not being of Cuban descent. That made me smile.
This is what needs to happen: The news must be dispersed outside of Miami – home to many Cuban Americans – and it must be shared in places where the hardships of Cuba are unknown. For decades, Cubans have cried out for help. Cubans are angry. They are tired and they are restless. They seek freedom and safety. There are thousands of Cubans starving every day. There aren’t enough medical facilities and tools available to help these people
I am a proud third-generation Cuban American. My grandparents arrived in the U.S. at a very young age through the Operacion Pedro Pan (Peter Pan rescue operation). Then and now, we can still see and hear the pained cries of our Cuban people. They are retaliating against the harsh conditions suffered in the hands of a merciless government they must abide by. People in Cuba continue to be killed and persecuted for speaking their mind.
Who is protecting Cuba’s children today? My grandparents – who are no longer with me – would relive their worst fears were they to see the unfolding events in Cuba. I carry my family’s history in my blood – it’s impossible for me to stand idly and not advocate for change or make my voice heard. Although many people are exhausted from decades of protest, I continue to be inspired by the commitment many still have, including the elderly, who despite their age, still stand and protest.
As such, when I hold up an L and wave my Cuban flag and repeat: Patria y Vida! – I do so with pride and respect.