Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Wish for Cuban Youth: Part 7

This post marks the seventh entry for the current Roots of Hope blog prompt: "My Wish for Cuban Youth."

“…Pero tampoco es difícil”

By Mike Riley

At what point will it stop? When will it be over? Has anything changed lately? If so, is it for the better or for the worse? These are questions that a typical Cuban-American will ask himself whenever “El Canal 23” comes on at 6:00pm EST mentioning the word “Cuba”. For years I have grown up, and learned simple rules from family: No one likes Fidel Castro, you’re his enemy, and that communism is bad. Very simple. Stick to those rules and a Cuban-American can be a real Cuban in the United States without being seen as an outcast or “cubano repentido”. As I got older into the teenage years, everything became complicated with the history and our progress as an ethnicity, because lets face it, most Cuban-Americans are born in the United States yet know very little of the history is to why they were born in the United States and not Cuba. What it didn’t complicate was my wish for Cuban youth and the future of Cuba: To live in freedom, and to ensure that the voices of the Cuban people are never silenced again

I do not mean to say that their current efforts are in vain, but they need support. Their voices cannot fall on deaf ears and we, as a community, need to listen at all times. With that in mind, I also believe we, as Cuban-Americans need to educate the rest of the world about what is going on. I have met many people who have demonstrated poor knowledge of the struggles the people of Cuba face today.


I had my moment of clarity.

We need not only to support our Cuban brothers and sisters but also to attempt to educate the world about why change is needed. I can’t help but feel offended when I talk to people who don’t seem to grasp the reality of Cuban life today because, having experienced it, it remains a highly personal issue for me and for most of my family. Incidences life these, however, re-affirm my pride in being a Cuban, and remind me that I should do everything in my power to help. I have family suffering in Cuba to this day, worried about living, eating, and having clothes for themselves. They did not choose this lifestyle and it would be morally unjust to let this continue. I myself am only one of hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans with personal stories of their own and how they connect to Cuba.

Recently, the world has watched as the people of Tunisia, Egypt, and currently Libya, have revolted against oppression and dictatorship. Egypt and Tunisia have successfully and peacefully had their voices heard and are now rebuilding their governments respectively. Lives have been lost that should not have been. The people of Egypt and Tunisia, however, have changed their futures forever. With the backing of the international community and networking sites like Facebook/Twitter, they did what I thought was impossible.

The million dollar question now arises: Why can’t we do the same for Cuba?

This is how it all starts. Much like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Dream”, Cuba’s dream has become a nightmare that she hasn’t woken up from in over 50 years. Although opinions on how to best go about it differ from person to person, the Cuban people cannot be afraid to pursue what they want. Some people say military action is needed, others say peaceful protests, but I say we need everyone involved. The people of Egypt received help from the world because everyone heard their voices and sympathized with them. Yoani Sanchez’s voice needs to be heard by everyone so that everyone will know what really is going on. Ours, and more importantly the voices of the Cuban youth need to be heard so that we can prove to people around the world the following: Our cause is just, and we need to do something now. The world was watching Egypt and now Libya. It’s time to bring focus on the terrors that have been done on our people. So that one day, in our lifetimes, we can truly say what we have wanted to mean: “Viva Cuba Libre!”

I like the idea of having the Cuba Conferences because it brings all of us Cuban-Americans or anyone interested in the future of Cuba together to unite with one another and support ourselves while we discuss with experts and guest panelists on the Cuba situation as well as doing the best we can to support the future of Cuba with their Cell Phones for Cuba program in which they ask for donations of old cell phones not in use, so that the people of Cuba can have them. This is my wish for Cuban youth in 2011: to have the world’s attention finally directed toward them, to let them know that they have an audience, and that their actions will have even greater meaning as people recognize that change can and must occur in Cuba. I titled this essay as such because it is a phrase I hear constantly in Miami and in Havana. People start by saying “No es fácil,” but then they go on to say, “…pero tampoco es difícil,” meaning it’s not easy, but nor is it hard. We know change will not be easy, but as the numbers grow and the voices get louder, perhaps then it won’t be so hard to see the change that is due for Cuba.

Mike Riley was born in Miami, FL to Cuban parents, has visited Cuba several times, and will continue to make the effort to give his family and the people of Cuba hope.

The views expressed by individuals on this forum do not necessarily represent the positions held by Raices de Esperanza.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Wish for Cuban Youth: Part 6

This post marks the sixth entry for the current Roots of Hope blog prompt: "My Wish for Cuban Youth."

Basta Ya

By Tatiana Garcia

"La libertad es, en la filosofía, la razón; en el arte, la inspiración; en la política, el derecho." - Victor Hugo

"Un hombre libre es aquel que, teniendo fuerza y talento para hacer una cosa, no encuentra trabas a su voluntad." -Thomas Hobbes

La capacidad humana de obrar o no de acuerdo con su voluntad, eso es libertad, y eso es lo que deseo para los jovenes no sino para todos los cubanos. Pero no es solo un sentimiento o un anhelo, es una necesidad que los cubanos estan expresando de mil maneras, contrario a los que muchos piensan, no estan cruzados de brazos y esto se refleja en la literatura, la musica, la plastica, el humor,y el vestuario. Pero solo con desear algo no se logra,hay que contruir el futuro y el futuro se construye en el presente y con acciones y cambios.

La libertad no es tangible, no existe una pildora para consequirla, se lucha con sangre, fuego y este es el momento ideal para consequirla. Basta Ya de de la nostalgia barata por la Habana de los 50, Basta Ya por algo que no esta, en ves de lamentarnos por lo que fue y mirar hacia el pasado y fotos amarillas veamos la gran oportunidad que el tenemos ahora, Basta Ya de decir que la culpa es de la sangre de nuestros ancestros, de la idiosingracia cubana, todas la piezas para construir algo Nuevo, Libre,Demogratico, Trascendente estan en juego:

1. La inevitable (y ojala que pronto) muerte de los "lideres de la revolucion"
2. La gran repercusion de la muerte de Zapata Tamallo
3. La incanzable y admirable lucha de las Damas de Blanco por los derechos humanos
4. El apoyo internacional que organizaciones sin fines de lucro estan brindando al pueblo cubano.

Todo esto conspira para que digamos, Basta Ya de excusas, esta es la hora de hacer algo que nos libre de la opresion, el miedo, los atropellos, no es una utopia, la libertad no ocupa espacio, ella llega y contruye un amanecer puro y eterno. No creo pedir mucho, solo espero que 11 milliones de personas encuentren lo que yo, y disfruten de Libertad, no, no, creo pedir mucho.

Tatiana Garcia is 20 years old, studied Sociology at Havana University, and is happy to now be in the US, a great country.

The views expressed by individuals on this forum do not necessarily represent the positions held by Raices de Esperanza.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Wish for Cuban Youth: Part 5

This post marks the fifth entry for the current Roots of Hope blog prompt: "My Wish for Cuban Youth."

Listen closely, Cuban youth are speaking

By Kenneth Sinkovitz

What does it mean to be a young Cuban today? What do they believe in, what ideology, if any do they subscribe? What platform do they have to express their opinions, share their ideas and participate in the global dialogue that their international peers have developed. Young people around the world have been empowered as never before through twenty-first century networking technology like the internet and sites like Facebook, Twitter and blog channels. With Cuba's limited internet connectivity and government-sponsored, censored intranet, it seems that young Cubans are being left would suspect that they want to catch up and participate. When it comes to Cuban youth, there are many more questions than answers.

Life in Cuba isn't easy, that is clear to almost anyone. "No es facil" is a common catch-all phrase for Cubans, often expressed with a big grin and wink. Cubans are a happy people by nature after all. Sure the majority of people are adequately clothed, housed and fed off a meager $20 monthly salary, but there must be more to life than just scraping by. Are we to assume that this is enough for Cubans, who are we to assume anything? How are we to know anyway, it seems like we cannot hear them, we cannot freely speak with them and they have no platform to freely express themselves or associate independently of the omnipotent government. Despite the limitations of young Cubans' ability to mobilize and leverage 21st century to press for change and share their perspective, they are talking and its up to us to listen, carefully. We are seeing cracks in the system which will inevitably help harness their energy and ultimately help them to work together and become authors of their own futures.

It's easy for foreigners to visit Cuba and comment on how happy the people are; Cuba is a natural paradise with a rich culture, proud history and vibrant social scene at every level and that is what visitors see and like to takeaway. But a deeper dive yields a much more complex and confusing existence guided by an unclear path or future. Young people in Cuba seem to be part of a society that lacks purpose and aspiration - the driving force of any individual and progressive society. Education may be free, but how does one motivate his or herself if there is no job after to apply skills and talents in a meaningful way. It's peculiar that the highest paying jobs in Cuba are in the service industry which takes in foreign currency, specifically taxi driving, hospitality and restaurant service which cater to wealthy tourists (many of them American!). It is equally challenging to be motivated in a humanities subject like literature, philosophy, history and sociology since in practice one may ultimately have to betray his or her true beliefs to match the "collective" Cuban credo or way.

By default many Cubans do work hard in school with the hope of perhaps landing a job in the service industry or perhaps propogating the collective idealogy of Cuban-branded liberal arts and humanities through education or civil service. At the same time, many have chosen to find more inspired and liberating paths. Paths that include a more defined purpose where they can become the authors of their own futures independently of a collective mandate or ideal.

Many Cubans choose to part ways with their families and friends to settle in la yuma (USA) where they can find work, freedom and a chance to realize their dreams. Others, however, remain on the island and carve out a niche for themselves where they can push the boundaries of freedom and expression. Young bloggers like Yoani Sanchez are helping young Cubans to access the internet and express themselves via blogging and Twitter so that the outside world can really appreciate who they are and what they want out of life. Others meanwhile are adopting music and art as a way to subtly express themselves and challenge the status quo. Just as the rap & hip hop phenomena in the USA has leveraged real life experiences and inspired lyrics to press for change, a growing uniquely Cuban music movement is doing the same on the island.

Young Cubans may not be able to afford the internet or have access but this is not the only way to express oneself, share ideas or mobilize to demonstrate a shared vision or dream which diverges from a collective ideology dictated from the top down. Young Cubans are not satisfied to scrape by a living on meager salaries and they are finding ways to share this sentiment with the world in many different ways including immigration, resourceful technology use and music & culture and more. Hopefully with more technology and continued courage, young Cubans can build on the progress they have already made and really show the world and their country what they are made of and what they want.

Kenneth Sinkovitz graduated Princeton in 2007 with a degree in History and Spanish, writing his senior thesis on race relations in revolutionary Cuba and how Afrocubans experienced the 1959 revolution differently from their white counterparts; it was called "The Afrocuban Revolution: A Study of Revolution's Impact on the Afrocuban Experience." He currently lives and works in Europe and has been involved with Raices de Esperanza for almost seven years.