So fearless, and so in control of this particular moment, Soler preached to reporters about their fight for change in Cuba as police officers watched on from a distance. She explains she wants just one minute with Pope Benedict XVI in hopes of sharing her concerns about the people of Cuba.
The meeting, like today's march, is a risk. The women risk their lives every time they march in unison. But it's a risk she said she is always willing to take.
"The love for our family, the love for our country, is stronger than a jail cell."
I was penetrated by her words just then. These women have such love for their country, a strong desire to see it at its highest potential.
And with that, the women entered the church for Sunday mass and headed out to march.
Two uniformed lines...the women holding gladiolas...silence. Only the hustle of the reporters chasing after them could be heard, and the honks from passing cars opposing the media coverage. No violence, no arrests. Just peace.
I was so honored to be alongside these women. They have taught me so much about being fearless and standing up for what you believe in. May they press on in peace, and may they live to see it reign.
SATURDAY, March 24 - 5:02 PM - (from producer Michelle Lacamoire) - Today, we took a trip out to Old and Central Havana. It's been gorgeous weather--clear blue skies and nice ocean breeze. Jen, Bill our photographer, and I left early for the popular tourist thoroughfare, Calle Obispo.
This narrow stretch of Central Havana is a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. Here you can buy jewelry, appliances, toiletries, and the classic tourist gifts and knick knacks.
Pretty much all the businesses are government owned. But there are many privately owned shops that are popping up, one of several reforms made recently by the Cuban government allowing Cubans to take part in private enterprise. It's a step up, but there are many more steps to go.
As always, we attract quite a crowd and plenty of stares with our press passes and equipment. Many gave us long looks as they passed us filming; others joked about getting on camera and becoming famous in the States; others didn't even flinch.
We spoke with some store owners about having their own businesses. Clearly, they are happy to own something that is theirs, if only a portion of it.
We spoke with some of Cuba's youth about their hopes and aspirations. One 18-year-old told us he's never traveled outside the country and wasn't anticipating the Pope's visit because he wasn't religious. There was sadness in his eyes and almost a sense of having given up on having any aspirations.
As Jen and Bill filmed, I stood back and watched the people go by about their business: the little old lady whose back curved from so many years of hard labor, walking along with her "java" or plastic bag; the little girl rushing to a dance recital at the hands of her mother; the young couple walking hand and hand, wearing the brand names popular in the U.S; the waiters and waitresses standing outside tourist restaurants waiting to make their tips for the day; then, the long line of people waiting to get into the cellphone store to make a purchase perhaps; the crowd of locals standing in the hot sun to catch a packed bus.
Life is hard here. But it's truth, I think, is so tragic and so beautiful at the same time.
FRIDAY, March 23 - 6:12 PM - (from producer Michelle Lacamoire) - My mom was sent to live in the U.S. with relatives when she was 14 years old. The eldest of 9, the idea was to bring each child over one by one, and then her parents. The year was 1957. Two years later, Cuba changed forever, and my mother was left behind on this side of the Florida Straits.
I grew up without my aunt and uncles and my grandparents. But, I did grow up hearing stories of my mom and her siblings, what they were like, what life was like for a family of 11 who was so poor.
When the U.S. made it possible for Cuban-Americans to travel to Cuba, I jumped at the opportunity. I yearned to see what I grew up hearing about, longed to meet the family I have only learned about through old photos and stories. I've traveled here several times, and for me, it's not about politics.
I understand the sentiment that my U.S. dollar will help benefit the Cuban government, but how can I deny a right to visit my family? To hug and kiss them after so many years apart? I've seen what Cuba is really like. I can't say I know all of its harsh realities, but I am well aware of them. I'll keep coming back as long as they let me, because for me, it's not about politics. It's about family.
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 - 11:28 AM - (from Calvin Hughes) - We just wrapped up our meeting with Cuban government officials to talk about our "boundaries," but apparently, there aren't as many as we thought. We did request several interviews, including one with Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and Elian Gonzalez, and were promptly told to get in line. There are more than 800 journalists here from all over the world and each has put in the same interview requests. We did talk about the possible discussions with Cuban officials about Alan Gross, a political prisoner, and was told the situation is "complicated."
FRIDAY, MARCH 23 - 10:40 AM - The Local 10 crew in Havana will be sending back pictures all day. Take a look at what they're seeing in this slideshow.