Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Cuban Spring

Vanessa Garcia - Multimedia Writer

The Cuban Spring
Posted: 04/23/2013 4:14 pm

As someone who writes about ABCs (American Born Cubans), Cuba, and Cuban-Americans, people often ask me the following question: "If it's so bad in Cuba, why don't Cubans revolt?" Why don't the people inside the island pour out into the street and lift their fists into the air, burn effigies, call out for freedom?

Images of the Arab Spring, blooming across our multi-media screens, have brought this question further to the forefront in recent years.

In the past, others have tried to answer this question by claiming that Cuba is too insulated to revolt. That not enough information seeps into the island to empower its people. Another answer is that hungry generations have been more busy figuring out how to eat than how to dethrone the government that was responsible for their stomach's growl.

But there's more. My response is as follows: If you are asking this question -- if you are sitting back, chewing a stick of gum, and asking yourself why Cubans don't act, then you're not paying close enough attention.

There is an uprising surging from Cuba -- voices coming up from cyberspace, like that of dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who since 2007 has been clacking away at her computer, sending messages across continents and nations, one byte at a time. For years she has been saying, in her blog Generation Y: This is Cuba -- when we rise up, they jail us; when we strike against injustice, they let us die of hunger. As they let prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, die during a hunger strike while imprisoned in 2010.

Zapata Tamayo was imprisoned, according to Amnesty International, "solely for having peacefully exercised [his] rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."

Meanwhile, Berta Soler, who leads the Ladies in White -- a group that has been protesting against the imprisonment of their loved ones since 2003's Black Spring -- continues to march.

During 2003's Black Spring, the Castro regime arrested 75 human rights activists, journalists, writers, and librarians for threatening the "territorial integrity of the state." Since then, and on every Sunday, the Ladies in White rally down Fifth Avenue in Havana, making their presence and demands known, despite harassment and threats. They want their husbands free; they fight for the same rights their friends, lovers, and husbands were jailed for -- what the Varela Project demanded: democratic and constitutional reform for Cuba.

The Varela Project, launched in the late '90s by Oswaldo Payá, proposed freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free elections, free enterprise, and the release of political prisoners. Payá died last year in a car accident -- an accident that his daughter, Rosa Maria Payá, has bravely claimed was no accident at all.

"Today," she said to the UN in March of this year, "we urge the United Nations to launch an independent investigation into the death of my father. The truth is essential..." In her speech, she implicated the Cuban government in the murder of her father. She ended her speech by asking: "When will the people of Cuba finally enjoy basic democracy and fundamental freedoms?"

These women, Sanchez, Soler, and Payá, write, march, speak, and protest. They have traveled outside of Cuba and have, as best they could, tried to spread the word that Cuba and Cubans are ready for change.

These women are, in short, the representatives of a rising up from silence. This may not be the kind of revolution we've seen from the Arab Spring, not yet, and perhaps (though of this we cannot be sure) not ever, nor is it the kind of revolution that got Cuba in trouble to begin with -- not the green-fatigued cry of their forefathers.

This is a revolution of pens, sharp as their wits; of wills, strong as their desire for justice and democracy; of voices and words that beg for change. This is Civil Disobedience. If 2003's Black Spring was a wilted one, left to rot enclosed in cells, un-watered, then 2013's spring, ten years later, is a stronger spring -- the nearly full-grown bloom of a long, hard, and labored planting and irrigation season.

The Cuban Spring is almost here. Now all we have to do is listen closely and respond.

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