HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – For more than 10 days, people all over the nation and certain parts of the world have been amplifying the voice of the Cuban people.
On July 11, 2021, the people of Cuba took to its streets to protest the lack of food on the island, a deteriorating health care system and above all, they’re asking for basic human rights and freedom from the communist regime that has been oppressing its people for over 60 years.
At Big Spring Park in Downtown Huntsville, over 100 Cuban- Americans and supporters from all backgrounds met at the gazebo to peacefully protest for the freedom of those on the island. The event was started with the singing of the Cuban and American National anthem, Nashali Belisario, one of the organizers said, “It’s because we’re here that we can do this, so we’re singing both.”
After speakers told their grim tales of what life in Cuba was like before they left, supporters walked around the park chanting, “Libertad,” “Patria y Vida,” and “Cuba Libre.”
Yaimara Lozano Sanchez, emigrated to the United States in 2015 with her parents and brother, “The reason why we left Cuba was my dad had multiple businesses and he started to make money and every time the people try to find a way to make money, they will come up with another rule, ‘oh yeah that’s illegal,’ ‘Why?”Because I say so.'” Sanchez said.
Sanchez says her family is one of the lucky ones. They were able to leave and as Sanchez and Belisario shared stories of the Cuba they’ve seen, the accounts got grimmer. While Belisario may not be a Cuban native, her husband is and she said she’s been able to see the real Cuba through his eyes and heartache.
“I really want to go to Varadero, like if I don’t do anything else, I need to go there. I want to see what it’s like and when he lived there, he wasn’t allowed to go,” Belisario said when talking about her trip in 2019 with her husband, “I thought ‘oh, Cuba must be so beautiful,’ I see it all on social media, but the Cuba I saw, you see people scavenging for things that you wouldn’t even think to eat.”
Varadero is a popular tourist spot, a coastal town east of Havana. The reality of the island is a sad one, with its deteriorating buildings and vintage cars, many people glamourize the “time capsule” of the island,” Sanchez said.
According to Sanchez, that’s the oppression.
The main reason for these demonstrations isn’t just to amplify the Cuban voices on the island, Sanchez and Belisario said it’s to open people’s eyes in the United States to what is really happening.
“The people die in the streets, the people die in the hospitals, the kids being shot, nobody cares about it and that’s why we need to keep talking about it because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it,” Sanchez said.
Still, while many stand in solidarity there are many who are ready to debate or don’t know much about what is going on. While the politics of Cuba and what life is like on the island is still a taboo subject to many, Sanchez says talking to natives is key.
“That’s why when you go to the internet and type, “What’s going on in Cuba?” Make sure where you’re reading it from, go and talk with a Cuban person, go to social media and find a real Cuban to tell you what’s going on,” Sanchez told News 19.
Sanchez knows first hand how unfair the regime can be, “My aunt worked for the government, she’s been in jail for seven years and they won’t tell her why. Her husband disappeared and there’s no one left to care for her children,” she added, “I’m only speaking about my families experiences, there’s so many more who weren’t as fortunate.”
Parents all over the United States work hard to provide a better life for their kids, whether it’s multiple jobs or working overtime, they do what they find necessary, but for Sanchez’s family, working harder for a better life, is why they had to leave Cuba.
“To the point that the police was going to arrest my parents just for selling basic stuff, like clothes, perfume, stuff like that and there was no other choice, we moved to another town, were just going to do something different, but they were already on the watch list, to the point that the only option we had was to leave Cuba, we thank God, had the opportunity to leave,” Sanchez said.
If they didn’t leave, Sanchez says she’s sure that her parents and brothers would have been arrested and she would have been left on the streets.
The grim tales of those in Cuba are hard to listen too and there are some who don’t have a happy ending like Belisario and Sanchez. Those who attended the demonstration at Big Spring Park shared the story of a family that was killed by the regime, disappeared or never got the chance to leave.
But, Cubans on the island, although scared, are hopeful and so are the ones who stand in solidarity with the people of Cuba.
“Quiero ver una Cuba libre y no pararemos hasta que pase,” Sanchez said, which means, “I want to see a free Cuba and we won’t stop till until it happens.”