Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Featured Blog from Cuba: Rebeca Monzó Mieres

A Botched Robbery

By Rebeca Monzó Mieres (translated into English by Chabeli Castillo)

A friend from Spain sent me a package in the mail, on July 6th, containing medicines, two cell phones, one for myself and the other one for another person, with their corresponding chargers, three flash drives, and some office supplies.

The package arrived in less than fifteen days. When I was notified of its arrival, I went to pick it up to the Ministry of Communications facilities. At the moment that the package was handed to me, the employee noticed that on the outside of the box protected by a transparent plastic from the TransVal Company, was a loose cell phone battery. After we opened it up to its content, we saw that the two cell phones declared on the original invoice were missing. Only the batteries were left (botched robbery) whose models corresponded to different brands, and the empty box of one of them.

I immediately went to make my claim to the Technical Department of the Postal Zone Six for Services to the Population. There, they also charged me $25.00 pesos. I don't know if that was because of my mismanagement or what.

It is assumed that the mail is inviolable, and especially when the content has been declared to the pertinent authorities. How is it possible that accidentally all packages, including mail, even a simple magazine from a foreign university get here damaged, and come along with the obviously expected note?

Right in that place, an employee, very kindly, informed me that if I wanted to, I could go to Calle 100 and Boyeros, where all the packages arrive before they are processed by the Ministry of Communications, but the problem was that they did not serve the public there. This seemed a joke to me, but the woman told me this very seriously.

I decided to write a letter, to explain this story with every detail, and send it to the Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) Newspaper, which has a section called Acknowledgment of Receipt, where they use to receive and publish this type of complaint. What results to be ridiculous and deplorable is the botch of the robbery.

Original Blog Post: Un Robo Chapucero by Rebeca Monzó Mieres.

Rebeca Monzón Mieres: an autobiography

I was born in Havana, on November the 14th… well, the year does not matter; I will just tell you that I'm from the era of the four - speed record player and the pressure cooker.

I am a teacher, "quasi journalist" (I missed a semester to finish). I worked in the radio for two years and was a diplomat in Paris. I also worked as a salesperson in El Rastro, Madrid. Then, I was Professor of Ceramics and Pottery in the same city and a bureaucrat for many years. Since 1986, I am an “independent artist”, member of the Cuban Association of Artisan Artists. I have done exhibitions in and outside the country. I’m earning a living as an artisan, and now I have a blog because I love to write.

To read some of Rebeca Monzó Mieres's other posts (in Spanish) see below:

Erre con Erre Cigarro

Mujeres Liberadas

Jugando al Capitalismo

Rompiendo el Bloqueo

4 De Julio

Llover Sobre Mojado

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: Words from the Wise

This post marks the fourth installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months! To see previous posts, click: "An Exciting Beginning," "Amazed by Raíces" or "An Unexpected Surprise."

Words from the Wise

By Ben Tyler

As part of the Roots Fellowship, we the Fellows have the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the most well respected business and thought leaders in our community. The “Leadership Discussion Series” as it is so aptly titled, is an opportunity for us to grow as leaders by exposing us to some of the most successful people South Florida has to offer. So far this year we have had the opportunity to meet with leaders such as Carlos Alberto Montaner, Ricky Arriola, Alfredo Mesa, Nestor Carbonell, and Carlos Saladrigas. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions of the speakers has truly given us an incredibly well rounded take on everything from business to life to issues facing Cuba.

While each speaker has someway or another risen to the forefront of their respective fields, some of the most profound thoughts that they shared with us had nothing to do with business. I found it interesting that almost every speaker stressed the importance of balancing all aspects of life. Carlos Alberto Montaner spoke about the different lives we all lead (business, family, social, and personal) and how a happy person is one who can best distribute their time to develop each life. From Ricky Arriola we learned that sometimes family and business can be one and the same and compliment each other in a very positive way. The consensus seems to be that no matter what we choose to do in life, we should do it to the best of our abilities taking our own personal growth into account.

Although each speaker has had his own unique take on Cuba, what was adamantly clear in all of the discussions is that Roots of Hope’s goal of empowering Cuban youth to become author’s of their own future eclipses the monotonous political rhetoric that we often find surrounding the issues facing the island. Alfredo Mesa told us that what Roots of Hope has effectively done is create a “healthy space” for people to discuss Cuba without the shackles of typical political motivations. Both Nestor Carbonell and Carlos Saladrigas spoke about the importance of our work not only as a thought leader, but as an agent for tangible change on the island. The fact that leaders from complete opposite sides of the political spectrum have been able to find common ground in the Roots network is a testament to the potential of our endeavors. If the Leadership Discussion Series has taught me one thing, it is that no matter how deep political tensions may become, there is always a way to advance the debate.

Ben Tyler is a rising sophomore in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service and a Roots of Hope 2011 Summer Fellow. To contact Ben, email

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Roots of Hope Statement On Rotilla Hijacking


Miami, FL — Organizers of the independent Cuban mega-music festival, Rotilla, denounced the Cuban government for hijacking this year’s concert series which expected to draw a crowd of more than 20,000 attendees. Rotilla organizers Michel Matos and Matraka Productions issued a statement condemning the Cuban authorities for “kidnapping, stealing" the festival, originally scheduled to take place August 5-7, often referred to as the “Cuban Woodstock.”

"We denounce the excessive and stubborn censorship that is being exerted against any cultural activity that does not originate in the so-called (Cuban) institutions," said Matos in an official statement.

According to CNN, “the Rotilla Festival, a hugely popular three-day rave on a beach outside Havana, was launched in 1998 by Matos and a handful of friends.”

Matos stated that Cuban authorities—including Vice President Esteban Lazo and Cultural Vice-Minister Fernando Rojas—told the independent organizers that the Cuban government would be taking over the festival.

Roots of Hope condemns the Cuban government’s blatant censorship and hijacking of Rotilla, and calls for independent organizers to be allowed to produce the concert without repression.

Contact: Raul Moas

Comunicado Oficial de Organizadores de Rotilla

La Habana, Cuba. 20 de Julio de 2011

Motivo: Denuncia del Secuestro del Festival Rotilla.

Rotilla Festival, fundado en el año 1998, es el único evento de su tipo en Cuba. Se realiza cada año en el mes de agosto, y durante tres días consecutivos promueve y expone la gran mayoría de las manifestaciones de la vanguardia artística cubana. Es de carácter no lucrativo, totalmente gratuito y abierto a todos los públicos.

Al principio comenzó siendo un movimiento promotor exclusivamente de la música electrónica, a partir del 2008 incorporó a su programa artístico bandas musicales de los más variados formatos, pero siempre bajo el principio de promover lo alternativo dentro de las artes.

Igualmente el festival desde su nacimiento ha sido administrado de manera INDEPENDIENTE por sus fundadores, y sin prácticamente ninguna colaboración de las autoridades cubanas (estado-gobierno). Esa ha sido nuestra política y nuestra posición, queríamos crecer desde nosotros mismos, desarrollarnos y generar un movimiento auténtico dirigido especialmente hacia los jóvenes teniendo muy en cuenta sus verdaderas expectativas y exigencias.

En la ultima edición (2010), ya por las propuestas artísticas, por el eco de prensa tanto nacional como internacional, por la larga trayectoria y el renombre adquirido mundialmente, el festival obtuvo el récord en asistencia de 20 000 personas, colocándose así como el evento mas largo en tiempo y de mayor asistencia juvenil dentro la isla. La gran cantidad de materiales fílmicos acopiados en todo este tiempo así lo legitiman.

Hoy, en el 2011, Rotilla Festival enfrenta su mayor oprobio. El Gobierno Cubano, en la persona del vicepresidente Estaban Lazo, junto al Ministerio de Cultura, en la persona del viceministro Fernando Rojas, pretenden secuestrar el evento de las manos de sus organizadores y fundadores, y realizarlo desde las instituciones estatales, arrebatando y plagiando para esto nuestro nombre, nuestros días señalados y nuestra convocatoria, violentando el concepto propiodel evento, llevando al “festival“ bandas que modifican el formato que nosotros, sus legítimos dueños, habíamos establecido. Por otra parte, las instituciones en cuestión han ofrecido remuneraciones económicas a los artistas participantes en este “evento“ para de este modo deteriorar la relación social establecida históricamente (sinbasamento lucrativo) entre los organizadores originales y los artistas, asegurando así la presentación de estos últimos.

Tradicionalmente había existido un dialogo con las autoridades, donde estas presionaban para que no se presentara determinado grupo y en cambio cooperaban para que se realizara el festival, se había establecido así un modus vivendi, de coexistencia. Nunca ha sido algo cómodo informar a un artista que no puede presentarse, pues elMinisterio de Cultura lo rechaza. Pero ese, es el folklore tradicional que en cuanto al arte se vive en Cuba. Eso es por todos conocido. Sin embargo, en esta ocasión… han ido demasiado lejos las llamadas instituciones. Nos han comunicado informalmente, a través de Noel Soca, funcionario que dirige la Comisión de Recreación y Cultura en la nueva provincia de Mayabeque, que no teníamos mas nada que ver con ello, que el festival sería realizado por el Ministerio de Cultura y el Instituto de la Música en los días señalados, pues los jóvenes iban a asistir de cualquier manera.

La directiva del Festival Rotilla acudió al Ministerio de Cultura sabiendo que se estaba realizando una reunión con motivo y nombre “Rotilla“, en las oficinas de Fernando Rojas, viceministro de cultura. De ella fuimos cortésmente expulsados, no habíamos sido convidados.

Una cosa es la censura (ya tradicional), otra muy diferente es el robo, el plagio y el secuestro de una obra que ha alcanzado muy altos niveles de atención a nivel incluso internacional, y que cuenta con las congratulaciones de miles de jóvenes cubanos que allí han asistido por años.

El equipo organizador de Rotilla Festival, quiere dejar muy claro y de manera categórica, que este año 2011, se cancela el Festival Rotilla, por la violencia ética que han manifestado las máximas autoridades de la cultura cubana.

Nosotros, realizadores y autores de Rotilla Festival, y en mi nombre propio, su director y fundador, DENUNCIAMOS el robo, el plagio y el secuestro que esta actitud significa para todos los jóvenes de esta tierra que hoy representamos. Denunciamos la excesiva y terca censura que se esta ejerciendo contra cualquier actividad cultural que NO provenga de las llamadas instituciones. Denunciamos el acoso a que estamos siendo sometidos de manera constante, a la vigilancia y las amenazas sutiles o directas de las que somos objeto cotidianamente.

“Un país no se dirige como se dirige un campamento!“ Dijo en ocasión de la guerra chiquita José Martí al generalísimo Máximo Gómez. Y es que en un país debe primar un pensamiento plural, su sociedad debe ser dueña y soberana verdadera de la nación, y por encima de todo, dueña de la buena obra construida con el esfuerzo de los años y el sudor de la propia frente.

El robo de una obra propia, que se concibe como proyecto de vida, es el acto más inmoral y deplorable en que se puede ver involucrado el estado-gobierno de una nación. Rompe con todos los principios de la ética revolucionaria, cuyo concepto esta escrito en cada esquina de cada barrio de todo el país.

Queremos advertir a nuestros líderes, que este tipo de actos, atacan incluso la base del contrato social vigente en la sociedad cubana. Arremeten contra el principio de respeto que un pueblo debe tener por su gobierno. Consideramos que incluso, contradice los mismos lineamientos que se acaban de lanzar con razón del VI Congreso del Partido Comunista de Cuba, ignorando algunos de los principios que allí quedaron plasmados; dejándonos a los hijos de Cuba sin norte de guía y sin esperanzas.

Para reconstruir la nación, es evidentemente necesario que participemos todos. Y esa participación solo se puede generar con la confianza y el respeto entre el estado–gobierno y la base de la sociedad, sus gentes. Este tipo de actos sembrarán entre nosotros, hoy los más jóvenes, la desconfianza a construir y crear en nuestro suelo, pues no existe garantía de hecho ni derecho de que serán respetadas nuestra creación o nuestra inversión en tiempo y recursos humanos y materiales.

Dejamos claro a nuestra contraparte institucional que iniciaremos los procesos legales correspondientes en su contra, pues este acto no es solo violatorio de todos los conceptos de ética y moral conocidos, sino también de un conjunto de leyes sobre derecho de autor y propiedad intelectual que esperamos, estén aún vigentes en la nacióncubana.

Es hora que cada uno de nosotros exijamos los derechos que nos corresponden como ciudadanos, y que estos marquen nuestra relación con las instituciones. Es tiempo de poner orden a la insensatez y la arbitrariedad.

Queremos hacer nuestro ejercicio en nuestra tierra, invertir y ganar haciendo lo que hacemos, nuestro negocio personal, nuestra fiesta, nuestro festival, ese derecho, sí que lo exigimos, por que no lo tenemos. Es justo y necesario.

El equipo de Rotilla Festival invita a todo aquel que se identifique o adhiera a esta causa que se haga eco de este discurso y que lo difunda por cualesquiera de los medios a su alcance. Así edificaremos hoy la solidaridad del mañana.

Esperamos que este comunicado sea recibido con el mismo respeto que hemos querido imprimirle, pues es nuestra intención dialogar para reformar, para crecer y salir adelante, para construir una nación para todos donde todos tengan a salvo su propio espacio y crezcan como individuos capaces y seguros de sí.

Que no quepa duda que vamos a continuar reclamando el derecho a realizar nuestro festival en los próximos años, es nuestro legítimo derecho.


Official Statement From Rotilla Organizers

Havana, Cuba. July 20th, 2011

Official Statement of the Directive Council of the Rotilla Festival
Purpose: Denunciation of the Kidnapping of Rotilla Festival

Rotilla Festival, founded in the year 1998, is the only event of its kind in Cuba. It is brought together every year in the month of august, and during three consecutive days it promotes and exposes the great majority of the demonstrations of the Cuban artistic vanguard. It is of a non-lucrative character, completely free and open to the public.

Originally it began as a movement promoting electronic music exclusively, since 2008 it incorporated in its artistic program musical bands of the most varied formats, but always under the principle of promoting the alternative within the arts.

In the same way, since its beginnings the festival has been administered INDEPENDENTLY by its founders, and practically without any collaboration of the Cuban authorities (state-government). That has been our policy and our position, we wanted to grow by ourselves, develop ourselves and generate an authentic movement aimed specially at the youth with their true expectations and demands very much in mind.

In our last edition (2010), already because of the artistic proposals, because of the national and international press coverage, because of its long trajectory and the renown it has acquired world-wide, the festival obtained a record attendance of 20,000 people, thus placing itself as the longest running and most attended by youth event in the island. The great quantity of film material gathered in all this time legitimizes this claim.

Today, in 2011, Rotilla Festival faces its biggest challenge. The Cuban Government, personified by vice-president Esteban Lazo, together with the Ministry of Culture, personified by vice minister Fernando Rojas, aim to hijack the event from the hands of its organizers and founders, and produce it through government institutions, seizing and plagiarizing our name, our scheduled days and our convocation, distorting the very concept of the event, bringing to the "festival" bands that modify the format that we ourselves, the festival's legitimate owners, had established. At the same time, the institutions questioned have offered the participating artists of this "event" monetary remuneration, in that way deteriorating the social relationship established historically (on a non lucrative basis) among the original organizers and the artists, and thus securing the performance of the latter.

Traditionally there existed a dialogue with the authorities, where they pressured us so that a certain group did not perform, and in exchange they would cooperate to allow the festival to happen. Thus it was established a modus vivendi, of coexistence. It has never being easy informing an artist that he cannot perform because the Ministry of Culture rejects him; but that, is the traditional folklore that we live in Cuba regarding art; everyone knows it. However, this time…the so-called institutions have gone too far. They have informed us informally, by way of Noel Soca, government official who heads the Commission of Recreation and Culture in the new province of Mayabeque, that we no longer had any involvement in the subject, that the festival would be run by the Ministry of Culture and the Institute of Music in the arranged days, as young people would attend any way.

The board of directors of Festival Rotilla headed to the Ministry of Culture, knowing that a meeting was being carried through with the purpose and name "Rotilla", in the offices of Fernando Rojas, vice minister of Culture. From this meeting we were politely expelled; we had not been invited.

Censorship (already traditional), is one thing, and something very different is the theft, plagiarism, and hijacking of the work that has reached such high levels of attention at even international levels, and that counts with the congratulations of thousands of young Cuban people that have attended for years.

The organizing team of Rotilla Festival wants to clearly and categorically assert, that on this year 2011, the Rotilla Festival is cancelled, due to the ethical violence that has been manifested by the highest authorities of Cuban culture.

We, organizers and authors of the Rotilla Festival, and I myself, its director and founder, DENOUNCE the theft, plagiarism, and kidnapping that this attitude represents for all the young people of this earth that we today represent. We denounce the excessive and stubborn censorship that is being exerted against any cultural activity that DOES NOT originate in the so-called institutions. We denounce the harassment to which we are constantly being put through. We denounce the surveillance and the subtle or direct threats to which we are subject daily.

"A country is not governed as one governs a barracks" said Jose Marti to the general Maximo Gomez on the occasion of the small war. We believe a country should foster pluralist thought, its society should be the owner and true sovereign of its nation, and above all, the owner of the good work constructed with the effort of many years and with its very own sweat.

The theft of one's own work, conceived as a life project, is the most immoral and deplorable act that the government of a nation could be involved in. It violates all the principles of revolutionary ethics, whose concept is written in each corner of every neighborhood across the whole country.

We warn our leaders that this type of behavior attacks even the base of the social contract that is in place in Cuban society. It attacks the principle of respect that a populace (nation) must have for their government. We believe this even contradicts some of the same points that have just been released by the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, ignoring some of the principles that were set forth; leaving the children of Cuba wandering aimlessly without hope or direction.

To reconstruct the nation, it is evidently necessary that we all participate, and that participation can only be generated with the confidence and the respect between the government and its people. Such acts will plant in us, today’s youth, distrust to build and create on our own land, because there is no guarantee that neither our creations nor our investments in time, human resources, and material resources will be respected.

We made it clear to our institutional counterpart that we will initiate the corresponding legal proceedings against them, because this act not only violates all known ethical and moral concepts, but also a set of laws on copyright and ownership of intellectual property that, we expect, are still in force in the Cuban nation.

It is time that each of us demand the rights that correspond to us as citizens, and that these rights mark our relationship with institutions. It is time to bring order to the folly (stupidity) and arbitrariness.

We want to do our exercise in our land, invest and earn doing what we do, our personal business, our party, and our festival. That right, which we demand, but do not have, is just and necessary.

The Rotilla Festival team invites anyone who identifies with or adheres to our cause to disseminate this speech by any means at their disposal. This way we can build today, the solidarity of tomorrow.

We hope that this statement is received with the same respect that we intended to print it. It is our intention to discuss reform, to grow and succeed, to build a nation for all where everyone has their own space to grow as confident and capable individuals.

Let there be no doubt that we will continue demanding the right to carry out our festival in the coming years, it is our legitimate right.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeds of Change - How Cell Phones Can Shake a Nation

This post marks the first entry for the current Roots of Hope blog theme: Seeds of Change. To read more about the purpose and goals of this series, see here.

According to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union, Cuba - a country of 11 million inhabitants - has a total telephone density of less than 20 percent, the lowest in Latin America. We've sought to change that statistic.

Cell Phones For Cuba is a Roots of Hope project committed to providing young people in Cuba with technology, helping them to become more connected and unified. Our organization seeks to find creative outlets both in Cuba and abroad to further our mission of empowering the Cuban youth to become the authors of their own futures.

Cell phones in Cuba help guarantee a technological infrastructure for effective connectivity within the island, and certainly between Cuba and the rest of the world. Cell phones are of great advantage for the Cuban people to communicate, in both cities and remote rural areas. They are key to organizing and promoting social gatherings and events, a hundred percent independent from the government. Cell phones help the extensively separated Cuban families become more unified because they are the most efficient and accessible way, if not the only one, for the Cuban people to reconnect with their loved ones.

What are Cuban youth saying about the Cell Phones 4 Cuba Project? "El cell está de maravillas. Ya lo estoy usando, al igual que muchos otros; incluso otros se han abierto la línea gracias a eso. Un millón de gracias…”
- 22 year old Civil Engineering student in Camagüey

These bridges between families and friends allow the exchange and flow of information, eventually helping the Cubans on the island become more aware of their own reality, and the rest of the world’s. For an isolated country like Cuba to have social development and address the paradigms of information and knowledge, it must have a modern and efficient communication infrastructure, making it possible to access any information quickly and safely.

Thanks to all our donors and supporters, Roots of Hope has been able to send more than 450 cell phones to Cuba this year, each phone having a cost of $40.00. Our goal is to send a total of 10 000 phones or more to the island. Our organization is committed to help the Cuban youth, bringing relief, friendship, love, and hope into the lives of many Cubans on the island.

The young people who benefit from our services appreciate, from the bottom of their heart, the generosity of all the members of the Roots of Hope family, and all the people that collaborate with us.

What are Cuban youth saying about the Cell Phones 4 Cuba Project?“Realmente conozco personas a quienes les vendrían muy bien esos teléfonos, porque los necesitan, y no pueden comprarlos…”
- 25 year old Industrial Design student in Havana

The youth in Cuba live within an atmosphere of constant pessimism, and their only hope of having a future is leaving the country. Cubans on the island need to know that there are people out there who care about them, and want to give them the support that they need to be able to make the changes that they want in their society. It is empowering to witness and hear of the excitement and gratitude they feel from the support and assistance that we can offer.

What are Cuban youth saying about the Cell Phones 4 Cuba Project?“…es muy noble en realidad esa labor de ustedes. Acá hay mucha gente que necesitan ayuda, y ver que todavía hay personas que ayudan a los otros sin importar nada, es muy gratificante…”
- 23 year old Visual Design student in Havana

Want to impact someone’s life? Join us! We invite you to take a tour of our website and the Roots of Hope and Cells4Cuba Facebook pages.

Our crew is always available to set up a visit for you, or to answer any questions you may have. Don't hesitate to call our office at 305.397.8604, or email us at We would love to keep you updated on the Cuban youth and our campaign through our newsletter and monthly emails.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Featured Blog from Cuba: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana on December 10, 1971. This incredibly eloquent Cuban blogger graduated from Havana University in 1994 with a degree in Biochemistry. In an unusual move, left a career in science to be engulfed in the world of literature and citizen journalism.

Orlando has been blogging since 2008 in his blog Lunes de Post-Revolución (Post-Revolution Mondays), in which he reflects on his life - and that of others - within Cuba. For more information, check out a recent interview in a fellow blogger's blog, Claudia Cadelo's.

To read some of Orlando's writings translated into English, see these entries:




In addition, here is a beautiful new post that hasn't been translated yet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Fellows Journal: An Unexpected Surprise

This post marks the third installment of a series of accounts by the 2011 Roots of Hope Summer Fellows, focusing on their experiences, thoughts, and musings over the course of the coming months!

An Unexpected Surprise

By Claudia Diaz

I went to the Raíces conference last spring ready to be immersed into a network of people with a love for Cuba and an interest in doing something for it. I was surprised that there was even a group of young people like me interested in talking about it; I thought the Cuba topic only belonged to the older generation, to “el canal 41”, Maria Elvira, Oscar Haza, to Versailles Cuban Restaurant and to the corners of Miami supermarkets. It was never a topic I approached with friends at school, or with people of my generation overall, mainly because it was supposed to be a dead end, a conversation that only consisted of complaints, name calling, frustrations, sadness and no solution in sight. So, what were we going to talk about in that conference that hadn’t already been said? I was in for a pleasant surprise. The conference as well as my short time at Raíces this summer have showed me that practical solutions can be reached when everyone works together to brainstorm ideas and solutions to the issues we all care about. During the conference, small workshops were created where everyone was allowed to voice their opinion about a specific problem facing Cuba and come up with a project that would in some way be a solution, or at least produce an advancement. I realized once again that the power of exchanging ideas and of collective brainstorming is incredible.

Within the Cuban community we all have different ways we think are best to reach the end goals we want. However, it is very fortunate that we all hold very similar goals: to better the situation of Cuba and its people. Roots of Hope encourages its members to do precisely this, focus on the ends and not the means, for this is what unites us. Diverging opinions on how to reach those ends have to be respected and given freedom to be explored, while simultaneously leaving room for other paths. The most productive activity is to unite efforts, thoughts, and ideas. In Raíces, we believe in the power of trial and error. Instead of becoming incredibly attached to one method of accomplishing a goal, we strive to constantly evaluate, tweak, recreate, and sometimes throw away those methods that do not work. This is a practice that our community should embrace as part of an effort to create any kind of change. At the end, those methods are only tools to achieve the goals that we all wish for.

Everyday in Raíces I learn more about different approaches, methods, and conversations that have already been had and carried through, and I am extremely grateful to learn from a group of people with so much experience and freshness at the same time. I am looking forward to all that I have yet to learn during my time here and to all the impact I can have on Cuba and its people because of it.

Claudia Diaz will be starting her third year at the University of Chicago this fall, where she is a pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Human Rights. She came to the United States at the age of 11 and has lived in Miami ever since. To contact Claudia, email

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Launching Seeds of Change!

We are announcing the launch of the new theme on the Roots of Hope blog: Seeds of Change!

Over the past few months Roots from all over the country have blogged about their 2011 wishes for Cuban Youth. Some have spoken of self-governance, others of political and social change, as well as freedom of expression. The wishes have been as diverse as the Raíces family, but one yearning seems ubiquitous: that Cubans will be able to realize whatever dreams and aspirations they have as individuals and communities.

Not too long ago, Roots of Hope as a whole had a wish for Cuban youth – connectivity – and we responded by launching Cells 4 Cuba, a project aimed at increasing exchange within Cuba. Now we ask you to be the Seeds of Change. How do you think young Cubans can achieve their dreams? What can we do on our end to empower them? Whether by translating blogs from the island, working to launch microloan programs, finding a pen pal, donating cell phones, or studying abroad – how do you think that we can help the wishes – or seeds – of youth in Cuba become catalysts of change and self-determination?

Over the next months, you will see posts roll out that touch upon these and other topics, but I encourage you to question yourself and to submit an entry with your own answers and suggestions. If you are interested in writing a post, let us know by emailing!