HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – On July 11, 2021, the people of Cuba took to the streets to protest not only the communist regime but the lack of basic human rights. With things like a deteriorating healthcare system, lack of food and no freedoms, those on the island are asking for an end to the communist regime that has oppressed the country for 62 years.
According to Cuban officials, only one person has died as a result of the protests, but how factual that is, it’s hard to know, since so much of what goes on the island is unknown to those outside of the country.
But, those reports of only one death contradict much of what is circulating on social media. Which caused a movement and the now trending hashtag, #SOScuba.
The words “Patria y Vida,” which translates to motherland and life is a play on the words of the 1959 Revolution in Cuba led by Fidel Castro, “Patria o Muerte,” which means fatherland or death. The popular song, “Patria Y Vida,” written by Cuban artists, Gente De Zona and is banned on the island. Patria y Vida is one of the phrases you hear being chanted in the streets of Cuba and those who are holding their own demonstrations in solidarity with those on the island.
Minister at Mayfair Church of Christ, Gary Bradley has visited Cuba 29 times, that’s more than most who fled the country seeking political asylum. Bradley says he has witnessed life under a communist regime firsthand.
“When you get off the plane in Havana, the secret police follow you everywhere you go. We’ve never had any trouble, we don’t talk about the government we go down there for one purpose and that’s to talk about the lord,” Bradley told News 19.
In his visits, which have gone on since 1995, Bradley has seen what the struggle looks like. He said what they wanted then, is what they want now.
“The furthest thing from my mind when I woke up the other morning and saw that there was a major demonstration in Cuba against the government, they want their freedom,” Bradley adds, they keep blaming the embargo for everything that happens and it’s not.
There are four churches on the island of Cuba, Bradley says the Cuban people are some of the most loving people that he’s met. But as the number of churches on the island grows, so do the restrictions against worship.
“You have to have permission to sing, you have to have permission to serve communion. When I speak to the 300 preachers in Cuba every year, it gives me chills because some of those men have been in jail and they’ve been in jail for baptizing people, they’ve been in jail for serving communion,” Bradley said.
With simple freedoms taken, like freedom of religion, Bradley says he’s shocked that the people of Cuba protested from La Havana to Santiago.
“Because the very thing he doesn’t, the government doesn’t want is a crowd. We dealt with that many times, we gave away 20,000 bibles a couple of years ago and we were told we had to limit the number of people that assemble, they don’t like people getting together,” Bradley said.
The Bradley has been in contact with other Ministers on the island through email, “But you have to be careful what you write because the government reads it before they do,” Bradley said.
Currently not much is known about what is happening on the island other than what the Cuban government releases, which is monitored closely, and what has been circulating around social media.
Bradley closed by saying, “I’m praying for the people of Cuba, I hope that the government does hear them, I pray for their safety and freedom.”
News 19 has reached out to those with family members on the island who say, “They are tired of protesting and scared of what could happen in the coming days.”