THE LADIES IN WHITE
Estefans break new ground with march
BY AIDA LEVITAN
Gloria and Emilio Estefan have always been pioneers. When no one thought
a Miami Cuban-American musical group could cross over into the general
market, the Estefans did the impossible, becoming internationally
famous, selling millions of records and producing some of the most
innovative music in U.S. history.
Emilio's recently published autobiography, The Rhythm of Success, is a
testimony of what vision, tenacity, talent, hard work, organizational
skills and, above all, a commitment to family, can achieve in a free
On March 25, the Estefans broke new ground by organizing a historic
event in support of freedom and human rights in Cuba, attended by
thousands, in the heart of Little Havana. They succeeded in producing a
massive, peaceful, dignified and harmonious demonstration that united
Miamians in support of a just cause.
When I thanked Gloria Estefan for her bravery in taking this stand
(which might not be very popular with certain influential leaders in the
entertainment industry), she responded, with tears in her eyes, that the
truly courageous were the Ladies in White, the Damas de Blanco, who
peacefully demand freedom for Cuban political prisoners and who were
recently attacked by violent mobs in Havana. The Miami demonstration
conveyed a powerful message of love and support for them as well as for
the mother of Orlando Zapata (who recently died in a hunger strike in
Cuba), for Guillermo Fariñas, currently on a hunger strike, and many
National and local celebrities, media and community leaders walked with
the Estefans, accompanied by thousands of freedom lovers of different
nationalities, displaying the flags of the United States, Cuba, Mexico,
Spain, Argentina, Venezuela and other countries. It was the first such
demonstration organized by individuals instead of political
organizations, and one of the most moving, successful and unifying
events I have ever witnessed in Miami.
The significance of the Estefans' leadership in defending human rights
and freedom for Cubans cannot be exaggerated. They have been capable of
directly reaching and motivating President Obama to make a statement
reaffirming the right of Cubans to be free. Other celebrities such as
Willy Chirino, Lisette, Olga Guillot, Albita, and Pitbull demonstrated
solidarity with the Estefans' cause of freedom in the Miami march.
Their actions inspired music icons such as Shakira and Ricky Martin to
ask for freedom for Cuban political prisoners. Soon Andy Garcia will
organize a similar march in Hollywood with the participation of
Even more significant is the fact that this event reached out beyond our
Miami Cuban-American community. Because of the Estefans' celebrity
status, as well as the massive nature of the demonstration, U.S.
national newscasts and international media covered it. Thus, this
peaceful initiative should increase awareness among millions in the
United States and the world of the plight of Cubans fighting for freedom.
No one really knows which single event led to the fall of the Berlin
Wall. While Gloria Estefan spoke from the stage, Cubans who fight for
human rights were being beaten and harassed in Cuba, as she reported,
thanks to a phone call made by one of the dissidents.
We can only hope that the Miami demonstration can strengthen the
courageous Ladies in White and other Cuban dissidents so that they can
become the chinks in the armor of a cruel 51-year-old dictatorship and
start the domino effect that will lead to freedom in Cuba.
Aida Levitan is president of ARTESMIAMI, Inc.