Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why Run for Roots? Part 2

Run for Roots is a new initiative that embodies the Roots of Hope mission by seeking to draw attention and collect funds in support of Cuban youth. The participants who will be running the Miami Half Marathon in January 2012 are motivated to do so by the desire to be agents of change and help empower youth on the island through innovative programs such Roots of Hope as Cells 4 Cuba and our Family Reunification Program. To learn more about Run for Roots, visit our website. To donate, visit our Crowdrise page.


By Carmen Pelaez

The first time we ran as the RUN FOR ROOTS group, I pretty much felt the same as every other road race at the start. Then half way into the first mile, I started thinking about Cuba. And I realized that I had never thought about Cuba while running in forward motion. Yes, I had thought about Cuba’s tomorrows and yestedays many times-but something about one foot in front of another, about actually physically moving through space in a forward motion was liberating and had me at the point of tears. Just as I could barely feel the street beneath my feet, I passed in front of the New York Historical society which was undergoing a renovation. The banners that served as cover for the construction were covered in portraits of important New Yorkers. I stopped in my tracks when I saw the thoughtful face of Felix Varela.

He looked weary but determined. His expression was very similar to the expression I have seen a pass on most of our dissidents faces and felt deep in my own heart when it comes to all things Cuba. It’s kind of amazing how many times our little island has had to fight for its freedom with only small moments of rest in between. And it occurred to me that working for a civil society in Cuba is very much like long distance running. More often than not the conversation is frustrating, the work exhausting with only a few moments of brilliant inspiration to keep you going when you think you don’t have anything else left in the tank. That’s when I knew that running the Miami Half Marathon would be a very poetic and appropriate way to raise money for the ROOTS OF HOPE programs that I am so proud to support.

I started my training soon after Laura Pollan died and decided to run the race in her honor. I had hoped to be tireless and fierce and post my best half marathon time ever. But as usual, inspiration was fleeting. My training has been exhausting and I have been sick, cold and feeling utterly at a loss for my lack of strength and stamina. I haven’t been able to fundraise a lot of and it all just started to feel like a futile effort.

Then this past week I was lucky enough to ask Yoani Sanchez a question on a Columbia University produced internet radio program moderated by Mirta Ojito. I asked how we could support Cuban youth in a direct and daily way, in the same vein that her activism continually inspires us. Without pause she answered ‘Information.’ She said the best we could do to support the Cuban populous is by giving them ways to access information. That we needed to continue the work that ROOTS OF HOPE does as far as giving away cell phones and flash drives to Cubans so that they can educate themselves through technology and become a part of the world at large. Suddenly every step I ran in training, every crunch, every ache had a purpose, reminding me that even though at times the distance may seem insurmountable, every run has an end. The important things is to keep moving.

So, on January 29th, 2012 I will be running the ING Miami Half Marathon. As I work through the city that has given my family and so many other Cubans asylum I will meditate on how our dissidents have kept the hopes for a free and civil Cuban society moving forward. I will let their hope fuel mine and I will run with a full heart and my eyes fixed firmly on the future of our much oppressed but splendidly resilient Cuba.

Carmen Pelaez is a New York based actor, playwright, and author. Her professional page can be seen here.

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