The First Full Day
By Miraisy Rodriguez
I was so surprised when the first three panelists of the day began their discussion in Spanish that I leaned over to another conference participant and asked “do these people (referring to the rest of the audience) speak Spanish?” She nodded yes, and I thought wow, and was then able to concentrate on the panel.
Being involved with Raices since I myself was in college, I’ve gone through phases where I wished we, as an organization, did a lot more. I’ve also been more or less involved depending on the school year, and other life impacting factors. But yesterday was definitely not a day of wishing we would do more. Yesterday we did something awesome; we had a conversation with three Cubans who live on the island, and like most us, flew into Boston just for our conference. There’s always room for improvement, but listening to conference participants enjoy asking questions related to everything from whether the Catholic Church really enjoys freedom of expression in Cuba to what it specifically meant for Padre Conrado to be the “people’s Cardinal,” directly of representatives and members of the Church on the ground in Cuba felt like a big achievement.
The excitement by no means ended there. The second panel was full of realistic ways in which Cubans on the island are being supported, or will soon be supported by the exile and general international communities. If the Catholic Church representatives of the panel before had suggested that we should ask our counterparts on the island what they need from us before deciding how to help, then organizations represented in this panel, like Friends of Caritas, gave us a way to learn what people need by partnering with the only local NGO (non-governmental organization) in Cuba, Caritas. It was simply encouraging to see pictures portraying Cubans on the island at work with the business that they say would benefit from the microloan programs various organizations are trying to get off the ground. And that was just one of the contexts during the panel when a picture was worth so much more than any words.
When at the end of the day participants were asked for their “highs” and “lows,” the answers were varied. Some of the most memorable “highs” included having panelists directly from Cuba, having found a group of young people with whom to share the experience of having visited an island with so much history and feeling for the first time, and “Felice’s three piece suit.” And the “lows,” well they weren’t so “low” as they were “high expectations for the next two days.” Among them, having more time to meet all of the wonderfully intelligent and passionate people in the room, and having more time to flesh out ideas for action.
And as any good day filled with Cuba enthusiasts should, we brought Friday to a close with our dancing shoes on.
Miraisy Rodriguez was born in Santa Clara, but raised in Miami. She is a second year law student who likes to blog on her free time and volunteers with the Miami Roots’ Network.