Updated: Jul 19, 2021
(Black Lives Matter protest in Miramar Florida, 2020)
What does the Black Lives Matter protests have to do with what we see happening in the streets of Cuba? Let’s take a closer look. The Black Lives Matter movement mobilized millions of young people across America. Like many demonstrations, this created a backlash against it. This is the nature of protests but the protests themselves were much larger than the Black Lives Matter movement. It was a global phenomenon fueled by young people across the globe willing to take to the streets to demand justice and equality in the face of systemic injustice. Now that fight has taken shape in Cuba against communist rule and the people are active.
It stands to reason that the people of Cuba were exposed to the thousands of social justice and racial equality protests in the U.S and around the rest of the world. Many of them had to see or hear about the young people demanding equality right in front of armed police and sometimes militarized forces. To an impoverished nation, seeing a fuse being lit for the greater good of its own citizens can be inspiring enough to have hope. This is especially true with so many Cubans having deep and close contacts to family members and friends in the United States.
In general, Cubans in Miami may indeed be a more conservative, Republican leaning demographic that now has to think about the value of protests in the face of injustice. Miami is more than just a close neighbor to Cuba. It's tied at the hip to the nation because so many of Miami’s Cuban residents are either from Cuba or have close family ties to the island. That not only applies to Miami, but it applies to all of South Florida and many other communities across the nation to a lesser degree. Therefore, when the demonstrations happened in Cuba it was no surprise that those same demonstrations happened across South Florida and in Miami in particular. Miami locals know how to take to the streets but the show of solidarity was clear with demands for freedom, reform, food resources and at the moment access to COVID-19 vaccinations.
In Miami there is a much more connective link for those of us that are not Cuban. We are connected by our friends, neighbors, coworkers and associates who are as connected to the growth and success of this region as any other. We also know from history that the situation in Cuba is not going to just go away, or be blown away by the next storm. The door has been opened by the boldness of the protests and can never close again regardless of what the Cuban government does. The people have spoken on the island and although its a far cry from a revolution, it can be seen as a step towards change that we will continue to unfold.
How the United States deals with Cuba from a diplomatic standpoint is something we will have to watch. Protesting is a part of the American experience and in some cases, our own politicians want to put restraints on protests and in some cases find ways to make it illegal. That does indeed look a lot like what we see in communist Cuba along with other parts of the world like Hong Kong. Once people taste freedom and the opportunity to debate or protest issues that they have against their government as we do in the United States, that door can never be closed again.
What Cubans are going to understand on the island is that freedom is never free. It's likely that we can expect people to die, people to be jailed, and people to simply go missing. It's also likely that under the environment of communism, the media will likely be shut down, vilified, or even turned into the enemy as we have seen happen in the United States under the moniker of fake news.
The media, social media included, is one of the most important elements of a free society and democratic processes. Cubans are now getting a taste of it, seeing it on the internet, and hearing it from friends in the United States. Let's not ever forget that the right to protest is not only a part of the American experience, but when there is injustice it becomes a part of the human experience. A free nation must protect that and support that as we do here for the Cubans in that nation.