Posted on Thursday, 04.18.13
On Yoani Sanchez: 'La Habana' meets Miami
BY ANDY GOMEZ
"I found a Cuba outside Cuba."
Those were the words Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez expressed shortly after
arriving in Miami and visiting the shrine to Our Lady of Charity,
"Cachita." It did not take long for Yoani to realize that Miami's
Cuban-American community is very different from the way the Cuban
government have portrayed us.
After traveling to New York City and Washington, it was time to come to
Miami. A home that was built by the many sacrifices our parents and
grandparents made when they decided to leave Cuba for the fears of what
the Castro brothers would do to the nation. "La Habana" could have
looked like Miami today. I'm sure this thought crossed Yoani's mind. The
capital of the exile Cuban community opened its arms and warmly welcomed
Cuba's most famous blogger.
Many years ago when the now-deceased Oswaldo Payá came to Miami seeking
support for the "Varela Project," which sought democratic changes in
Cuba, he was received with a lukewarm embrace from our community.
However, these are very different times.
After so many years of struggling to free Cuba from the shackles of
tyranny, many of us have realized that our strategies need some
adjustments. At the same time the Cuban-American community has gone from
a "politics of passion to a politics of realism." Part of that realism
was demonstrated over how we received Yoani in Miami.
We had read and heard her statements upon her arrival in Brazil favoring
lifting the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba and freeing the so-called
Cuban Five, who were convicted of spying and some played a direct role
in the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes by Cuba, killing
four Cuban Americans.
Most of us refused to judge Yoani's statements without giving her the
opportunity to explain it herself. Yes, we have become a more tolerant
community, politically mature, and respectful of other individuals'
views. While in Miami, I met with Yoani several times and listened to
her clear message. She was consistent, very smart, and eloquent as she
answered question after question. The more she spoke the more I liked
her. Yoani spoke of how difficult it is to live in Cuba each day without
freedom of expression and respect for human rights. It's like a bird
living in a cage, she said. We heard from her how little information
gets to the hands of the people. We heard from Yoani how she and her
parents, like many other Cubans, were part of a promised dream, a
revolution, an ideology that eventually failed and has left a country in
shambles. The thirst that exists today for liberty and hope for a better
future is greater than ever. Yoani Sanchez told us that the Cuban people
on the island are not to be completely blamed for the atrocities of the
regime. She reaffirmed for us that the fight for a free Cuba is not over
and that the Cubans on the island need us as much as we need them to
bring about real political change. In the words of Yoani, "We might
disagree on some of the ideas, methods and strategies on how change
should come. But the most important thing is that we are all Cubans
fighting for the same thing."
Yoani has left a long-lasting positive impression on our community.
Remember, she is only one voice among 11 million voices on the island
that come out of the "bird cage" and speak against the government every
opportunity they get. Yoani is not the only one who opposes the regime
each day and pays the consequences for it. The list of opposition
leaders and groups is long and getting longer each day. What Yoani
Sanchez accomplished in Miami with her visit was to finish building the
bridge between Cubans here and on the island. We must extend our hands
and help them every way possible. As Yoani, now in Europe, prepares to
return to Cuba, let's not forget the message she left behind. Let's not
forget that there are many like Yoani all over the island. They deserve
our help and support. Change has started in Cuba. However, mere
provisional economic changes are not enough. All Cubans want and demand
real political changes.
Let's not give up until this goal is accomplished. We owe this to our
parents and our grandparents — many no longer alive. We owe it to the
many who suffered and continue to suffer in Cuban jails. We owe it to
Cuba's children. The Cuban people want to be free.
Andy Gomez is a senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.
Friday, April 19, 2013
On Yoani Sanchez: 'La Habana' meets Miami
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