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

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