MIAMI, Fla. – Miami’s Little Havana businesses welcomed back SOS Cuba protesters on Friday evening. They joined tourists and the area’s regulars of the weekly gallery night known as “Viernes Culturales,” Spanish for “Cultural Fridays.” The stage was used to stand with artists on the island who face censorship and harassment.
Cuban-American demonstrations have been ongoing this week in Miami-Dade County, as a response to the uprising in cities across the communist island Sunday. The SOS protesters’ anthem “Patria Y Vida,” Spanish for “Homeland and Life,” continued to be heard in chant, rhyme, and song. It was also on T-shirts and signs.
The Cuban artists wrote it to antagonize communist propaganda that is more than half a century old. It was inspired by the late Fidel Castro’s rallying cry of “Socialism or Death” and the slain “Che” Guevara’s “Homeland or Death” 1964 speech in the United Nations. Sandra Camargo said she doesn’t listen to music in Spanish, but when she heard the song this week she was in tears.
“The assassins’ failed promises are still killing people today. My family has suffered so much and we still have distant relatives who need our help,” said Camargo, 33, who was in Little Havana with her family. “We send money to family in Madrid and they send it to Cuba, but even with money they can’t find soap, shampoo, food, or anything.”
A few dozen marched for about two miles on Eighth Street, better known as Calle Ocho from Versailles at Southwest 36th Avenue and at the Domino Park at Southwest 15th Avenue. Maria Salas, a Miami-Dade resident, participated in the march.
“It is very easy to stand and say we are with you we want to help you, but if there is no action that takes place by our government, by other governments, the UN — nothing is going to happen,” Salas said.
In Versailles, a sign showed a quote attributed to a Cuban poet that is beloved in both the island and South Florida. “Only oppression should fear the full exercise of freedom” — José Martí. Near the Domino Park, there was a pink mural with the hashtag “Patria Y Vida.”
“I normally wouldn’t do any of this — especially during a pandemic. But like we are all vaccinated and like Cubans are dying over politics none of them really care about,” Camargo said. “They just want to be able to live with dignity ... Somebody needs to do something. My country and my heart is the United States. This is my home, but I can’t just look away and do nothing.”
Miami-Dade’s SOS Cuba protesters from downtown Miami to Hialeah, Kendall, and Westchester have been asking U.S. President Joe Biden to intervene. There have been rallies and marches and illegal roadblocks to call for an end to communism in Cuba.
Despite internet connectivity problems and power outages, Cubans have been able to share videos with friends and family in South Florida showing authorities’ violent crackdown. Cubans reported beatings, shootings, and raids at the hands of police.
Witnesses fear for their lives. A resident in Havana told a friend in Hallandale Beach that police had shot a protester in the head. An activist in Cardenas said special forces stormed into a family friend’s home and left a pool of blood behind during an arrest.
Cuban Americans in South Florida said they are worried about their families in Cuba. Aside from the violent repression and judicial harassment, they are reporting food and medicine shortages.
Relatives say COVID patients in Cuba are dying at home without access to healthcare, and there is plenty of propaganda about the coronavirus vaccines developing in Cuba, but there is a lack of access to the shots.
Protesters said the desperation fuels their sense of urgency. In the way Black Lives Matter protesters demonstrated against racism on Interstate 95, Cuban flags made it to the illegal blocking of traffic on different parts of the Palmetto Expressway this week.
On Thursday night, after a massive afternoon march in Hialeah, protesters remained on West 49th Street, just west of the Palmetto Expressway late into the night. The Florida Highway Patrol released a statement warning that state troopers are working with local law enforcement agencies to keep state roadways safe.
In Little Havana, Miami police officers closed an area of Eighth Street earlier this week for a “Patria Y Vida” event. After the concert ended, a group marched from Versailles to the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami. Officers closed off areas to keep both pedestrians and drivers safe. The march Friday will likely prompt road closings again.
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