Berta Soler, the current leader of the Ladies in White, a dissident group in Cuba, spoke Monday at the Freedom Tower for Cuba's Independence Day.
"Today in Cuba, there is no independence, no liberties, and that's why we're reaching out to countries who love freedom and peace, searching for that support," said Soler.
Soler, Laura Labrada Pollán, and Belkis Cantillo received the Miami Dade College Presidential Medal following their speech.
Gloria Estefan helped organize the event.
"I want them to know that we support them unconditionally, that they are not alone," said Estefan. "We're going to do whatever we can to at least put what they're doing in the forefront of the press worldwide."
In 2010, the Estefans led a march after Soler and others were beaten and detained in Havana.
"Remember, whatever they're going to do, it's going to come out on the internet worldwide and that's what we need -- people to know how people are suffering in Cuba," said Emilio Estefan.
"We continue to fight for the release of the political prisoners," said Pollán, whose mother cofounded the group in 2003 when their families were among those jailed.
The Ladies in White, like blogger Yoani Sanchez, received passports after Raul Castro's government relaxed travel restrictions in January.
"They're getting a lot of pressure from the international community, that's simply it, so they thought that this would not have the kind of impact that it's having," said Dr. Eduardo Padron, the president of Miami Dade College.
"The theory at this time is that there is an escape valve," said Rosemary Ravinal, who supports the Ladies in White. "In order to release some of that pressure, they do these acts of kindness to dispel the wrath of the world that they are indeed repressive, tyrannical government."
Soler traveled to Miami as part of her first trip abroad. She spoke to a group of Cuban exiles at the University of Miami last month.
"That Cubanism was so strong it made me feel at home," she said.