As a Cuban American, I am intimately aware that we agree on almost nothing. Politics, culture wars, economics, race relations, the time of day, nada. We are a deafeningly quarrelsome bunch, raucous in the extreme, unwavering in our determination to expire on whatever hill we chose for the day. And yet, despite our intra-community belligerence, there is a single statement on which just about all of us can agree: Cuba should be free.
Regardless of when you arrived in the U.S., your income, skin color, or voting record, we were all deeply moved by our friends and family on the island risking their lives and livelihoods to protest an Orwellian totalitarian state. They have no food, no electricity, no ability to speak their minds or control their destinies. Their willingness to brave an oppressive state security apparatus for the chance at better lives brought tears to our eyes. Hunched over our phones, watching our loved ones fight on an island many only see in their dreams, Cuban Americans were briefly united in pride, grief, and an ironclad determination to help.
I’ve seen many a wisecracking social media douche point out that the Cuban government doesn’t care if Cuban Americans march in Downtown Miami. This is true. But, we do not organize, post, chant, demand meetings, and sign petitions because we think it’ll scare Diaz-Canel into exile. We do all this to 1. Show Cubans on the island they are not alone, we have their backs, and 2. Pressure American politicians into enacting policies that will help the protesting Cubans.
God help me, but I worked on Cuba policy in D.C. for three years. Allow me to be perfectly candid: no one—and I mean NO ONE—in this country truly cares about Cuba except for its 2.3 million Cuban American residents. While I’m at it, very few care for Cuban Americans either. The foreign policy establishment (congresspersons, agency employees, think tanks, academics, the executive branch, and activists) generally views Cuba as a backwater Caribbean island only good for cigar selfies. As far as they are concerned, Cuba policy can remain on ice for the foreseeable future, Cubans be damned. To beat a dead horse, American policymakers—right and left—will not move to help the Cuban people on their own volition.
Cuban Americans are a key voting bloc in a key swing state. We must make it crystal clear to elected officials from both parties that we are watching them under a microscope. Flying down to Miami for pandering and a photo op in front of Versailles will not cut it. They cannot take our votes for granted. This piece is about unity, so I will not delve into the details of which prescriptions I believe we should prioritize. What matters are the results. Until we get them, we must turn our vaunted Cuban volume up to 11 and keep it there until those in power get tinnitus.
Cuba should be the one hill on which we’re all willing to die. Cubans in the streets of Havana, Camaguey, and Cienfuegos couldn’t care less about our positions on the Green New Deal, defunding the police, climate change, or infrastructure. They want to carve a future for themselves out of abject misery and hopelessness. We owe it to them to step up, lock arms with our fellow Cuban Americans, regardless of their politics, and march for the lives of those on the island.
One final point. If you use the comments section to snipe at other Cuban Americans about Trump, AOC, or some other petty political talking point, you’re a compete ass. That’s not the point. Store that bullshit for the midterms, when I’m sure we’ll all happily regress to our regularly scheduled circular firing squad. This is not about liberals vs. conservatives vs. moderates vs. monarchists vs. whatever. It’s about meeting the expectations of our Cuban brothers and sisters who rightful demand we put aside our differences to fight on their behalves.
If you like our stories, check out the first free chapter of our new book.